CCIAOR has seen an uptick in members contacting us with questions regarding the proper disclosure of brokerage affiliation on social media. We have assembled some of they key points around disclosures on social media. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.
Why You Need to Disclose on Social Media
In advertising real estate listings and services on social media, there are two sets of guidelines to factor in: the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics and Massachusetts real estate license law.
It is important to remember that CCIAOR only has the ability to enforce the Code of Ethics. The majority of this post will be about how you can stay in compliance with the code and can report violations of the Code to CCIAOR to hold your fellow members more accountable. Holding other members accountable is one of the most important priorities of CCIAOR’s new strategic plan.
Seven years ago, the REALTOR® Code of Ethics was amended to address social media and online “thumbnails.” It allows for an abbreviated posting of the necessary brokerage disclosure for posts or images that are short in nature. It requires that post to have a link to a page where there are the necessary disclosures, such as a listing page on a brokerage website or a link to a property listing that comes from an MLS. Here is what 12-5 Standard of Practice of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics says:
“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.”
How Does This Apply to Social Media?
Facebook and Instagram are the most common social media platforms used by REALTORS®, and thus have the most well-defined guidelines regarding brokerage disclosure and ethics. Here’s how you can stay true to the Code of Ethics you have to uphold yourself to:
- Facebook: This is the most used social media platform and is where most people end up violating the Code of Ethics. The easiest way to comply with the REALTOR® Code of Ethics is by posting a link to your own website or the CCIMLS link provided from your listing. Your website is should already follow the disclosure rules,, and the CCIMLS link discloses the agent and the broker in a NAR compliant manner. Other less than subtle ways a Facebook post may include the proper disclosures is to post from a business page with the brokerage disclosure in the page (as the page is linked when posting as the poster) or a direct share of a brokerage’s Facebook page (Jane Smith shares John Doe Real Estate’s post). This would be considered to be properly linked since the necessary disclosures are on the business page and would be one click away from the post being shared.
The most common violations of the Code of Ethics found on Facebook are posting words and/or photos with no link to an MLS or to the agent website, and/or indicating a property is coming on the market – or ‘Coming Soon’ on a personal page or in a group from a personal account where the proper disclosures are not made.The other way increasingly where REALTORS® run afoul of the Code of Ethics is in the marketplace, where they post homes for sale or rent and do not include the necessary disclosures that they are a licensed agent or broker and the name of the brokerage. If you are to post in the Facebook Marketplace, make sure to disclose your brokerage affiliation and, if you do post a property, include a link to your agent website or a direct link to the MLS.
For more on Facebook compliance with the Code of Ethics, see our post on the need to disclose your brokerage on Facebook page and common ways to do that.
- Instagram. Instagram is an increasingly popular vehicle for REALTORS® to market real estate listings. One of the things to note when boosting posts on Facebook is that depending on your advertising choices, you can also boost the same post on Instagram. It is important to check how that advertising will look and read to ensure it complies with the Code of Ethics. Most of the time, a ‘boosted’ post on Facebook that is cross-boosted to Instagram will already be compliant, but it is always good to preview the boost before it goes live.An important note is that on Instagram, you cannot have links in posts. It is important to make sure you are still at most “one click” away from your brokerage disclosure and the disclosure that you are a licensed agent or broker. One of the most reliable ways many are satisfying that is to include your brokerage disclosure in any post you make on Instagram (this home is offered by Jane Smith with John Doe Real Estate) or to make sure your Instagram bio has all the necessary disclosures.
How to File a Complaint:
Please note that the Association of REALTORS® staff is not an investigatory agency when it comes the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. We do not have the power to go out and charge people with violations of the Code of Ethics without a complaint first being filed. However, there are programs and avenues that allow you as a member to hold other members accountable to the REALTOR Code of Ethics. Here are the most common and effective ways:
- The Ethics Citation Program: Two years ago, CCIAOR launched an ethics citation program. It was primarily designed to hold accountable those who create false and misleading advertisements. Ethics citations can be confidentially and/or anonymously sent to CEO Ryan Castle or our Professional Standards Administrator Karen Jaworski. They will bring a copy of the advertising (you must provide it) to the Grievance Committee for consideration. If the Grievance Committee believes a violation was committed, the committee will be the complainant moving the case forward. The Grievance Committee has the ability to issue a citation in accordance with the Citation Policy. This program has been very successful and the Grievance Committee has moved forward on several anonymous complaints.
- The Ombudsman Program: CCIAOR also offers Ombudsman services. These are experienced professional members who have deep expertise in professional standards. In some situations, we can assign an ombudsman to a case to offer suggestions and advice on a potential violation, and they will bring it to the attention of the member who maybe in violation of the Code of Ethics. In addition, our staff of CEO Ryan Castle and Professional Standards Administrator Karen Jaworski routinely reach out to members to give them a heads up about advertising that they see that may not comply with the Code of Ethics.
Besides the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, your advertising must also compliance with state law. If you see what you think is a violation of state law, please go to the Board of Registration of Brokers and Salespersons. CCIAOR cannot investigate or enforce violations of state laws. For state law compliance the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS attorneys address that in this post.