Four Actions Financial Firms Must Do Before Using Social Media (and Still be FINRA Compliant)

If you’re in the financial industry, you may think that social media is the playground of hip ad agencies. Well it turns out that the financial services are just as tuned in to social media as their creative services counterparts. According to a new study by computer firm Accenture, about 60 percent of financial advisors have “daily contact with clients through social media.”  

Whether they are 20-something millennials or 70-something grandparents, your customers are increasingly engaged with social media. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are quickly becoming an important piece of the marketing puzzle.

However, for regulated industries it’s not all smooth sailing into the world of social sharing. For businesses that are trained to keep quiet, there is a serious fear of TMI. And for good reasons. As more financial services companies use social media to communicate products and services, they also increase the number of data breaches and regulatory guideline violations spelled out by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

So what can firms do before they start sharing? Here’s a list of things every financial enterprise must do before they go social.

1. Create a social media policy

FINRA lays out some pretty clear guidelines on social media usage for business communications. You can use them as a starting point to develop your company’s policy. Make sure the language covers not just employees, but also partners and third party vendors. This policy should also cover the differences between communication done for the business and employees’ personal posts, including gray areas such as posts made on work phones or laptops. Not sure where to start? Here’s a comprehensive list of social media policies by big name companies.

2. Control the message

It’s up to compliance and brand managers to keep an eye on the content that goes on their social media channels. This means controlling the flow of communication. You’ll want to have the power to approve or block content that is potentially divulges too much information or breaks guidelines. However, this is a time and resource intensive process. How do you do this without becoming the bottleneck? Consider a social media security program. With the aid of a tool, such as Cafyne, you can exercise direct control over which messages are meant for the masses and which belong in the virtual trashcan.

3. Train your employees 

Once you have a plan in place you can sit back and relax, right? Not so fast. The Accenture study found that among the 60 percent of advisors using social media, some are “likely flouting their firms’ current policies against this type of activity.” Since the users of your firm’s social media channels are your employees, it’s imperative to train them on the social media code of conduct just like any other employee policy. The average American ages 18–64 spends three hours a day on social media. Make sure your employees are adhering to your company policy during work and personal hours. It’s never fun when a crisis hits, but it’s worse to be caught off guard. Part of training employees is also creating a crisis communication plan in the event of violation or PR nightmare. See these 10 social media fails. A well-trained workforce is not only social media aware, but also knows how to mobilize and course correct when something goes wrong.

4. Don’t assume that employees are compliant

Despite the best social media policy, employees or third-party vendors may knowingly or unknowingly share sensitive or damaging information. To effectively counter such instances, businesses can implement a monitoring program that has the ability to understand the company’s compliance policy and can observe and report violations committed in real time before greater damage is done.

With a little upfront legwork and the help of smart security tools, financial firms can embrace social media as a valuable tool for communicating with consumers.