Content remains one of the biggest focuses for marketing teams. This is particularly true in professional services, where content marketing can be one of the most effective ways to evidence your skills and solutions.
When it comes to promoting your content, social media is likely to be one of your key channels. And use of Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms is predicted to grow after May 25, when the GDPR comes into force, restricting your ability to market via email.
But if you’re a regulated firm, social media itself comes with its own regulations and limitations.
Do you know what compliance risks your strategy poses? Do you understand how to minimise them? An article published last month claimed that 59% of companies don’t carry out any form of social media risk assessment. Here we look at some strategies you can put in place to reduce your risk.
What risks does social media pose?
They fall into two boxes:
- The risks of sharing corporate information and views on a fast-moving, interactive platform. These are the reputational hazards that any firm using this approach will face
- The potential for regulatory breaches as a result of your approach. These are threats particular to regulated businesses
So – what risks fall into each box? And how can you avoid them?
Minimising your reputational risk from social media
The article quoted above talks about ‘the unpredictability and speed at which reputational damage can spread on social media’.
This is the potential danger you face when you put your content onto platforms like Twitter and Linkedin. Their immediacy is one of the big pluses for Marketing teams, and the benefits are immense:
- You can get your firms’ views on topical issues out while they’re still current
- You can release news about new products and services swiftly, getting your solutions to market faster
- You can join in conversations in real time, demonstrating your expertise and approachability
But this immediacy also poses problems. If someone complains about your service, or questions your house view on a topic, you need to respond quickly if you want to protect your firm’s professionalism.
Deal with negative online coverage promptly and impressively, and potentially disastrous incident can be minimised. You might even get some PR kudos from putting out an online reputational fire efficiently and professionally.
But to do this, you need a plan. A proactive strategy that you can execute quickly to prevent the worst-case scenarios of lost sales and dented share value.
You need to:
1. Have a clear and documented social media policy
Having a clear policy is essential. It should set out:
- Who can post on your firm’s behalf
- What they are allowed to say (and what they should steer clear of)
- Frequency of posting
- Firm ‘house views’ on key topics
Create a social media style guide so everyone who posts is clear on what they can say, and how they should say it.
2. Make sure everyone has appropriate training
Anyone who is authorised to post on your firm’s behalf needs sufficient training. They need to understand your corporate rules around content. They also need to be aware of any regulatory limitations (more of which below).
Set up a training programme, and make it compulsory for anyone who has access to represent the firm on Twitter, Linkedin and any other platforms you use.
3. Consider whether social media is the best channel
Social media is a great, free, real-time conduit for your hottest marketing content. But don’t assume it’s always the best route. Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook will not always be the right option. Sometimes – particularly for complex or nuanced messages – another channel might be better.
Minimising your regulatory risks from social media
Of course, if you’re a regulated firm, the risks go beyond reputation.
The FCA has strict rules on social media activity. Posts on Twitter, Linkedin and other platforms are seen by the regulator as ‘non-real time’ promotions. This means that they need to comply with all the authority’s rules on financial promotions compliance (familiarise yourself with these here).
This makes them as heavily regulated as your brochures, adverts or web content. It means they need to:
1. Be 'fair, clear and not misleading'
The FCA dictates that financial promotions should be ‘fair, clear and not misleading’.
In a social media setting, this can be tricky. Your characters are limited, so any complex messages can be difficult to convey.
Get a feel for what will be approved by reading our tips on writing content that Compliance can approve. Understanding what can and can’t be published will reduce the number of posts your Compliance colleagues reject or have to edit – saving you time and getting your content out quicker.
2. Understand the rules on risk warnings
The FCA last updated its social media guidance in March 2015.
One of the changes this update introduced was around risk warnings. The FCA now says these apply to tweets and posts in the same way as they do to any other promotion. If you need to include a warning in your post, this obviously impacts the characters you have left for your message.
Read the FCA guidance for some helpful examples of tweets that would be compliant and non-compliant.
3. Get Compliance approval for your posts
Because the FCA views social media as a financial promotion, your tweets and posts need the same Compliance team sign off as any other materials.
You need to manage and document approvals in the same way as you do for printed materials. This means allowing time for Compliance team review in your publishing schedule.
This can feel contrary to the immediate, reactive nature of social media – but it’s essential if you want to meet regulatory requirements.
Make sure your approval processes are as efficient as possible and you can minimise the impact on your schedule. Read our 6 proven ways to make your approval process better for good tips on how to do this. You might want to explore introducing an element of automation to the compliance review process – this can also make it faster and more robust.
4. Watch out for hashtags
The 2015 guidance from the FCA sounds a note of caution on hashtags. Previously, the word #Ad had been suggested to signify promotional tweets.
The current guidance has changed this. It also discourages the use of any hashtag that might lead to confusion over the source of a tweet. You will need to be familiar with the rules so you can explain them to your business.
5. Retweeting, sharing and liking? You might be producing a financial promotion
The FCA’s 2015 guidance also made it clear that the regulator might consider a retweet, share, favourite or like as a financial promotion from your firm. You therefore need to be careful when endorsing a tweet in this way. Read the guidance for more details.
6. Make sure your record-keeping is compliant
Because social media is fast-moving and seemingly transient, people often forget that posts need to be documented and archived. Your record-keeping approach should be the same as for any other marketing material. Read more on how to ensure FCA-compliant record-keeping.
Social media certainly isn’t risk-free. In terms of reputation and regulatory compliance, there are pitfalls you need to avoid.
But its effectiveness as a channel for reaching clients and prospects, sharing content and building relationships make it a compelling approach for most regulated marketers. The key is putting in place a strategy that minimises your risks while capturing all of the advantages.
Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.