Social Media: Marketing Friend or Compliance Foe?

Friday, March 30, 2012 09:26
Social Media: Marketing Friend or Compliance Foe?

 Social media seems to be everywhere these days. As a recent study published by Financial Planning magazine shows, just over half of advisors are using social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in both their personal and professional lives. According AdvisorOne, nine percent of all LinkedIn users are in the financial industry. However, with compliance concerns on the rise, it can be difficult to know what you can post and what you cannot. 

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An increasing number of firms are creating policies on the use of social media, but many are still nervous about utilizing these methods to obtain clients and market themselves. There are no “hard-and-fast” rules, but here are some general guidelines to abide by:

  • Record Everything—FINRA recently toned down its filing requirements regarding social media, but this does not mean that they won’t examine your posts. As an advisor, you’re used to keeping proper documentation, and this does not stop when you get to social media websites. Recording also helps you to keep track of what you have and have not put online so you don’t repost the same article or message.
  • Determine the Level of Involvement—It can be difficult to decide whether your firm should obtain a Facebook page or not, or whether each advisor in the firm is expected to maintain a professional profile. Keep in mind, the more people involved, the more monitoring that needs to be done and the greater the potential for compliance violations.
  • Discover the Benefits of Social Media—Will social media help you to obtain prospects or will it consume your time without any results? In our experience, LinkedIn is particularly helpful in obtaining clients (if properly optimized), but it really depends on your practice.
  • Separate Business and Personal Accounts—This may seem like an easy one, but it is one of the most important principles to follow. If you, an employee or other advisor in your firm posts something work-related on their personal social media page, it can result in the same consequences as if they posted it on their work profile. Once something is posted, even if deleted, it was still there and could have been seen by a client or prospect. Make sure that everyone in the firm knows how to strictly maintain these boundaries.
  • Open Accounts, but Don’t Post—If you’re worried about compliance but still want to get involved in social media, go ahead and join. If you don’t post anything but instead use the accounts to keep up-to-date on your clients’ lives, you can still enjoy the benefits of social media websites. By having a LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, you can see when John Doe finds a new job or when Jane and Chris Smith have a baby. This way you can preempt their questions about 401(k) rollovers and college savings accounts by sending them congratulatory emails and asking them if you can be of any assistance.

Social media can be a great tool for advisors, if used properly, but the compliance worries associated with it can scare away many in the retirement industry. By following some guidelines, you can avoid compliance problems while gaining a great ally in the age of technology.

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