Make Sure Your Facebook Page Follows Ethical & Legal Rules

Facebook has become a key tool for success of the modern REALTOR®. With a powerful ability to reach an engaged local market and an affordable and impressive advertising program, Facebook helps REALTORS® generate leads, cultivate customer relationships and display their local expertise every day.

However, Facebook can also be a place to get a REALTOR® in legal and ethical trouble. When offering real estate services, an agent must disclose their brokerage in a “reasonable and readily apparent manner” to comply with both the REALTOR® Code of Ethics and Massachusetts license law. The local state law says “a broker shall not advertise in any way that is false or misleading,” and that “all advertisements shall include the name of the real estate broker.” These requirements are in additions to any policies or requirements your brokerage may add to the disclosure and display of the brokerage, so always check with your broker on their rules as well.

Here is what the REALTOR Code of Ethics says specifically in Article 12:

Realtors® shall not advertise nor permit any person employed by or affiliated with them to advertise real estate services or listed property in any medium (e.g., electronically, print, radio, television, etc.) without disclosing the name of that Realtor®’s firm in a reasonable and readily apparent manner either in the advertisement or in electronic advertising via a link to a display with all required disclosures. (Adopted 11/86, Amended 1/16)

Broker should note that this prohibits anyone affiliated with them from advertising real estate services or listed property without disclosing the REALTOR®’s firm – so brokers have the obligation as well to ensure their agents are abiding by this standard of practice as well.

Now, what does “readily and apparent” mean on Facebook? The REALTOR® Code of Ethics does not specify and gives hearing panels (both Grievance and Professional Standards) at the local level the ability to decide on a case by case basis.

However, we have put together some guidance that shows the way some of your REALTOR® leadership is choosing to disclose their brokerage on their Facebook pages in a “reasonable and readily apparent manner.”

  1. On your cover photo:  Incorporate your brokerage name and logo into your page’s cover photo or profile photo. Take a look at CCIAOR’s NAR Director Doug Azarian’s page for how he incorporates it into his Facebook page’s cover photo:

2. Include it in your business page name: This way, no matter where a Facebook user sees your content – on your page, in their news feed or elsewhere, your brokerage affiliation is clearly disclosed and always accompanies any listings or content you share. Take a look at how CCIAOR President Martha Knapp does just that:

If you are still using a personal profile as your primary business outlet, we strongly recommend switching and creating a Facebook business page so you can properly disclose your brokerage. Not only do you get access to Facebook’s powerful business tools, but building a Facebook page adds the ability to ensure you have the tools to make sure you are complying with the REALTOR® Code of Ethics and Massachusetts license law. In addition, you should also be checking with your brokerage to see if they have additional disclosure requirements or if they have specific ways they want you to disclose your brokerage.

For more, check out a Legal Hotline article about ‘Sharing Listings Online.’