Brokerage disclosure requirements on social networks is a heated topic that has many in real estate confused and each side of the aisle getting red in the face as they attempt to explain their own points of view.
As social networks have risen in prominence as a communication tool, Boards across the nation have had to interpret the Code of Ethics to determine the local rule. Some claim every tweet must include their broker’s name while others claim disclosure in a Twitter bio suffices.
Today, we focus on Minnesota as confusion abounds.
Eric Hempler, Minnesota Realtor says, “Minnesota’s Real Estate License Law says Real Estate Agents MUST disclose which brokerage they’re with whenever we talk about Real Estate. That means every time I post a comment, tweet, status, etc. on any social media platform I have to disclose I’m a Realtor. That’s like saying every time I have a face to face conversation with someone about Real Estate I have to disclose what Brokerage I’m with.”
Hempler, concerned with how status updates will be required to be formatted says, “If I tweet about Real Estate I have to fit ‘Keller Williams Classic Realty Northwest’ in my tweet. If I comment on someone else’s blog I have to mention ‘Keller Williams Classic Realty Northwest.’ If I post on Facebook I either have to have a link that goes back myself or I have to say, for example, ‘Keller Williams Classic Realty Northwest.’”
Your broker’s name in every tweet?
Minnesota Association of Realtors’ Senior Vice President, Linda Modlinski and Director of Professional Standards, Gregg Hartos published clarification in the MAR “eResource” newsletter on January 14th.
Modlinski and Hartos acknowledge the prominence of social networks in members’ businesses and states that in Minnesota, “Any time that you are talking about real estate, pushing a listing, talking about your buyer’s needs, letting the world know about your last sale, or letting consumers and past clients know you want their business, whether in an advertisement, brochure, business card, website, or any form of social media you MUST to [sic] disclose who you are, the brokerage to whom you are licensed, and your website must also include your state of licensure.” (All emphasis is MAR’s not AGbeat’s.)
That sounds like it upholds Hempler’s assertion that status updates must disclose brokerage, right?
So you must disclose your broker?
Next, they state “Article 12 of The Code of Ethics states that REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications, present a true picture, and shall ensure that their status as real estate professionals is readily apparent in all their advertising. The key word here is readily apparent which means a consumer needs to be able to easily determine you are a real estate agent easily and who you are licensed to.” (Emphasis is theirs.)
Maybe not all tweets require a broker’s name? Perhaps making it clear in the short bio who the broker is makes that information “readily available?”
Confusion in Minnesota
Modlinski and Hartos state that recent Code of Ethics changes “may cause some confusion in MN,” but explains that “The Code will allow the company name to be eliminated from real estate “tweets” or text messages if they are linked to a display that includes all required disclosures. We asked representatives at the MN DOC if this exception would prevail in MN and we were told it would not.” MAR executives next stated that “
So no broker name in tweets then?
MAR executives next stated that “In MN, all real estate licensees MUST include their firm name on all social media messages when you market yourself, your services or your listings. When the Code and state law conflict, state law always takes precedent. If you choose to Tweet to your peeps, even though you have limited characters (140) in which to state your message, the MN Department of Commerce has let us know that you still need to include your company name.”
We can understand why agents are confused and MAR leadership are clearly working with a moving target as the DOC defines the laws.
The bottom line:
We have reached out to MAR and our contact believes the proper interpretation is that “Every Twitter user has a bio, and it makes more sense to make the law state that agents must do their disclosures in this bio rather than in every single 140-character or less tweet.”
MAR’s official position according to Hartos is that brokerage disclosure in social network updates “is a law in our state, and agents are supposed to abide by it. That said meetings that have occurred with the Minnesota Department of Commerce about this issue have been progressive and positive in nature. The question of disclosure has been asked, and the Deparment of Commerce is considering the matter further.”
MAR advised that when in doubt, always disclose.