By Nicholas Smith
The Commission regularly receives complaints against brokers caused, at least in part, by a lack of professionalism in their communications. These complaints are often a result of brokers who have acted angrily or aggressively, communicated threats, made personal attacks or who made rude or vulgar comments in person, over the phone, or online.
Social media, texting, and email are a part of everyday life, both professional and personal. The conduct of the real estate brokerage business can also be extremely fast-paced and is increasingly handled electronically. Brokers can now text, email, and post “on-the-fly,” leading to communications that, in hindsight, might have been better phrased or simply better left unsaid. Responding to a text, email or social media post in anger or frustration can often exacerbate a problem in a transaction instead of reducing tensions.
Social media like Facebook and Twitter began as platforms for personal interactions. These platforms and those like them are now used both for personal activities and for advertising and branding professional services. Increasingly, the Commission is receiving complaints about brokers posting offensive content on social media. Posts that someone may consider offensive (e.g. discriminatory, political, angry rants, etc.) may not only damage your business and reputation but may lead to complaints with consumer websites, professional groups or associations, your firm and the Commission.
Of course, not all these complaints are actionable. Brokers are entitled to express their opinions and political beliefs. Being rude is generally not enough to constitute a violation of the License Law or Commission rules. On the other hand, the Commission may reprimand, suspend or revoke the license of a broker who is unworthy to act as a broker in a manner as to endanger the public interest. This could include conduct such as threatening physical harm or violence.
As brokers continue to expand their use of social media to network and promote their businesses, brokers should carefully consider the effect of their online presence, particularly on professional pages. A firm’s broker-in-charge (BIC) should also consider using written office policies to address their broker’s conduct in communicating in person and online. The Commission expects licensed brokers to be professional, so be mindful of what you say and how you say it. Keep in mind, as a North Carolina broker, you are a representative for all brokers in our state.