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So Where Do We Go From Here? Management of Online Risk

RiskDid anyone else get lost? Trying to keep up with the different discussions last weekend basically required one to take notes.

For those who still believe that associating words are simple misunderstandings, we’re not the only ones to disagree on that. There were several ‘bigger picture’ issues that emerged from last Sunday’s post.

First, a few thoughts on last week and then why whether you agree on not, intermingling online identities is playing with fire. If we aren’t careful, we’ll end up with a mess on our hands.

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Realtor, Speaker, former Indianapolis radio personality. Least prettiest person ever on HGTV. Crashed in a helicopter and a Cessna 182. Seven lives left. Blessed by an amazing family!



  1. Frances Flynn Thorsen

    February 7, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Well said. Managing online risk is not accomplished with a two-page Netiquette guideline. Risk exposure happens at numerous legal and ethical junctures.The events of the last week were a great exercise in numerous faux pas on all sides of the argument.

    There are numerous lessons coming out of the recent social media firestorm. Fewer than 10% of real estate brokers surveyed do not have a social media risk management plan, and probably most of the brokers with a plan rely on a set of Netiquette guidelines.

    I agree that attorneys are readying themselves to exploit online misadventures. You’re singing to the choir on this one … I’ve been beating that drum since 2008.

    My prediction is this:

    “2010 and 2011 will see wide reaching litigation in the real estate industry in two arenas – foreclosures and social media. This litigation will make the NAR vs. DOJ look like child’s play.”

    I’ve been saying that for a while. Time will tell.

  2. Kevin Tomlinson

    February 7, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Well said. Class. A true professional. One question Greg: was the snow in the background representing your “whiteboard?”

    Just a little joke. Really.

  3. Mike Bowler Sr.

    February 7, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Greg, your comments on last weeks post and the risk our industry faces is very well displayed this week. It would be interesting to see how many companies really have any kind of Internet and social media policy. However, there will be some of us who believe we have that right to voice our opinions regardless of who we are affiliated with and will continue to do so as Realtors, writers, and commentators. If we fear being sued they win before we start. I think the golden rule will protect most by treating each other as we want to be treated.
    Thanks for another great post. Mike

  4. Teri Lussier

    February 7, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Class act!

  5. jf.sellsius

    February 7, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Greg, you still believe in many of those bone video thoughts– fine… but, do you still believe tcar wished your event fail? (you mentioned that 5 times in your video)

  6. Ken Brand

    February 7, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Things evolve, we get smarter. We learn lessons from observation and study and sometime we learn our lessons painfully, the hard way, by personal experience. I hope to avoid the learning the hard way, so I’m paying attention.

    I remember when I was kid, we could hop on our Sting-Rays and Schwinn our down to Toys R Us and grab a box of Jarts (steel tipped lawn/yard darts). Jarts were 2ft long, steel tipped darts with yellow plastic fins, plus 2 plastic circles. We played Jarts on family picnics at Mission Bay. You threw down one circle (about 2 feet in circumference) at your feet and your opponent raced off, about 50 feet and threw her circle down, next to her feet. Then, you threw/lofted your steel tipped darts from your spot, aiming to have them land in your opponents circle, while she stood right next to it. That’s right, we threw steel tipped darts at each others circle while we stood there watching and dodging. Dodging the Jart and avoiding stab wounds was half the fun. Thankfully, no body got hurt, that I know of, but the point is, it was dangerous, but everybody did it. Eventually, as the game gained popularity, kids and adults got nailed and impaled. Eventually Jarts were banned due to legal liabilities (and common sense I guess).

    Social media won’t be banned, but like Jarts, millions more are playing on-line, people and personal/corporate brands are being hurt. Social media won’t be banned but corporations will ban certain practices and society will judge certain behaviors as Fail.

    This past weeks events and all who participated have shared the biggest and perhaps the most valuable lessons I’ve learned to-date. Playing with Social Media Lawn Jarts is dangerous and well, it’s dangerous.

    Now all I have to do it put what I’ve learned into practice. How about you?

    Thanks for the lessons.

  7. Joe Loomer

    February 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm


    I don’t think there is a “t” in “across.” Just sayin’ ;).

    Tactful and contrite, while still getting your message out.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  8. Ken Montville

    February 7, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Good deal, Greg. Well said and well presented.

    Every time I would listen to my Broker’s counsel or my local Association’s counsel, I would go, “Yeah, sure. Whatever you say.” This past week surely points out that we all need to be more circumspect when it comes to what we say and write on the “‘Net”.

    Now….what about that Sarah Palin Tea Party speech? You betcha!

  9. Justin Boland

    February 7, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Greg, I don’t want to be rude but I do need to be blunt.

    Your situation might be an important turning point in your own thinking, but it’s hardly new. Using “we” a lot doesn’t obscure the fact everyone knows: this is in reference to your own recent actions, not some huge cultural tidal wave. You recently made a mistake some of us were making 10 years ago. You will learn from it and you will move on. That’s not exactly news, though.

    We HAVE a mess on our hands, it’s called the internet. It is sprawling, chaotic and resists our efforts at modeling and predicting it’s effects. In another 10 years, someone else will be making the same mistakes you did, and Holo-cast immersion blogging about it, too.

    • Bruce Lemieux

      February 8, 2010 at 7:08 pm

      Agree. Most of us learned this lesson when we sent a flaming email to a cast-of-thousands and then had to clean-up the resulting damage. When we re-read the email later with a clear head, we realized that we screwed-up. Unlike an email that finally dies and goes away, a flaming post in SM stays around forever.

  10. Justin Boland

    February 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm


    Thanks for the data in your comment, that was an excellent read and I’m definitely curious to see if 2010 will prove you right.

    In terms of risk management on the policy level — organizations couldn’t do much better than the Air Force’s own Rules of Engagement for Social Media, which started circulating a few years ago:

    Managers crunched for time should just print a poster-sized version of that chart and put it on the wall above the coffee machine.

  11. Frances Flynn Thorsen

    February 7, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Justin, I think the “we” is highly appropos as a collective pronoun. I can chronicle a history of personal mistakes going back as long as most of the early adopters. Still, I am happy to count myself among the collective “we” Greg references; I made some missteps in the last week and I learned quite a lot as a consequence of those actions.

    This discussion has engaged many people on at least four Agent Genius posts, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, ActiveRain, personal e-mail, and telephony.

    There is articulate and thoughtful exchange on all these platforms. There is also a large measure of venom, vitriol, and utter stupidity.

    I applaud Greg’s video postscript as an excellent example of class, contrition, and fence mending.

    I know NAR is examining its posture vis-a-vis social media engagement as a direct result of the week’s misadventures. If that’s not a “tidal wave” I don’t know what is.

  12. Justin Boland

    February 7, 2010 at 2:35 pm


    All excellent points, thank you. I stand corrected.

  13. Rob Hahn

    February 7, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Really happy to see this video post, Greg. 🙂

    I think you did the right thing in your opening; now we’re going to get into the meat of the issue — how a personal brand interacts with corporate brands when it comes to social media.

    No one really knows how this will all work out, but I suspect reasonable people can differ, and that the ultimate solution will come through much vigorous dialogue and debate. Even a flamewar here and there. 🙂


  14. Francces Flynn Thorsen

    February 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    A corporate brand projects an image attendant to a company’s vision and culture. That’s the basis for meaningful discussion on many levels.

    The real meat of THIS issue, however, resides in the issue of risk management (or mismanagement) of various social media venues.

    A sound policymaking apparatus, spelling out responsibilities, expectations, and consequences, is the core of a relationship between a corporate brand and individual practitioners and their efforts to build synergy with their branding blend.

  15. Greg Cooper

    February 7, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Thank you all for contributing. Here’s what I would offer after the experience of the last week. There are people of legal expertise FAR FAR greater than mine who will be attempting to tie personal online behavior into corporate responsibility when a company’s name is used along side that behavior. Lawyers have told me so…and I take them at their word. Some cases may sway that way, some may not. How the specifics shake out are yet to be seen but do we really want to risk being in the middle of one of those if we have a choice? Do our companies?

  16. Greg Cooper

    February 7, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Oh…one other thing. Kevin, my face is my ‘white board.’ (have you seen the videos? 🙂

    • Dan Connolly

      February 8, 2010 at 1:32 pm

      Are you talking about your face or the one on the tree over your shoulder?

      Glad to hear the apology! Well put!

  17. Paula Henry

    February 8, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Greg – well stated! I repeat what I said lat week, social media can be a bit unnerving and has definitely changed the landscape of businesses everywhere, not just real estate.

    Beautiful backdrop!

  18. Joe Loomer

    February 8, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I don’t think this whole Greg Cooper experiment is going to catch on at all…

  19. Bruce Lemieux

    February 8, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Everything you express in SM has an impact on your brand – I think that’s the lesson here; not an impending tsunami of attorneys ready to bring SM-based lawsuits.

    Greg – regardless of the merits of your argument in your rant, your brand in the space was damaged because of the rant. Also, I don’t think this sort-of apology will repair the damage. We all should know that everything you say in this space stays forever. The good news – none of this is likely to have an impact on your business. Your clients only care if you are great at helping them buy or sell a home, and this incident didn’t make you any better or worse at that. And if they google this mess, I doubt any buyer/seller would have the patience sort through it all.

    I would strongly agree that mingling personal and professional statements as NAR’s official SM Manager doesn’t work for Todd or NAR. Sorry, you can’t communicate your own independent voice and then represent your company in the next breath (unless, of course they are one in the same). It simply doesn’t work – as demonstrated here.

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