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Minnesota Community Living May/June 2011

The Association Blog

By Tony Poetz

My dad was explaining the finer points of using ear plugs to catch trout. "What?” I asked over the phone. "You mean the ear plugs we use in the shop or at the gun range?” "Yes,” he said. "New ones. Pinch ‘em, put ‘em in a jar of bait juice and as it expands, it soaks in the juice. When you’re fishing, it floats down the stream lookin’ and smellin’ like a tasty trout-marshmallow.” I laughed. "Where did you come up with that?”

"I read it in a blog,” he replied. I was silent.

Dad lives high up in the Northern Arkansas Ozarks where the term "Yahoo!” is an exclamation rather than an internet search engine. While he uses email and plays the occasional game of computer chess, he’s leery of internet privacy and I didn’t think he knew about (or trusted) blogs. He explained that the local outdoor store writes a blog with tips on fishing, hunting and all things Ozark. He knows the blogger and trusts what he writes.

His explanation reaffirmed that people will find information they want or need even when they’re skeptical about the medium. They’ll also tell people where they got it.

So what does that mean to an HOA?
Well, a blog (short for web log) is a web site where individuals or groups record information or opinions on a regular basis – an electronic newspaper usually tailored toward a specific topic or group.

For an HOA, a blog is a valuable part of getting the word out to your members. Items up for board consideration, pool closings, parking lot striping dates, gardening tips...all of these notices can be put on a computer screen rather than taped to the front door of your building’s entrances.

That’s not to say a blog takes the place of a physical bulletin board or word of mouth. Those are still important because some people don’t regularly use a computer and, even if they do read your blog, more reminders are often better than fewer reminders.

One of the major advantages of a blog is that the writer can add links to information on other websites. Instead of structuring a complex explanation about the summer’s lawn care procedures, a link can be provided to your landscape vendor’s website which will have details directly from the expert.

There are, of course, cautions to be considered when providing a blog to your members.

  • It should not be relied upon as the sole provider of information. Again, some people won’t view it.
  • The information for something as important as HOA announcements should be factual rather than opinion. An opinionated article about guests in the pool area may alienate some readers to the point that they don’t trust the remainder of the blog.
  • Finally, blogs are a two-way street often providing a "remarks” area where readers can openly respond to any posting. Internet users tend to respond through the protection of anonymity...often resulting in a raw (and now public) opinion of the topic. The editor does have some control over content however, and users can be asked to provide a valid unit number or authentic identification before posting.

One of the best parts of a blog is that there are many FREE versions (the provider places small ads on the side to make money)., and Google’s BlogSpot are some of the sites that offer free, ready-made forums in hundreds of easy to use designs. You can start a blog in minutes then print the web address in your upcoming newsletter or on the bulletin board next to the mail boxes.

Just like that and your members can visit a forum that delivers information in a professional format...important information like budget announcements, cleaning schedules or how to make trout-marshmallows out of ear plugs.

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