There’s no doubt that social media is an essential ingredient in a successful content marketing strategy especially for regulated firms.
But while it can be a powerful channel – if you work in an FCA-regulated sector, like banking, consumer credit or financial services, there are a whole raft of regulations you need to contend with.
These rules govern the way you approach Twitter, Linkedin or any other channel you use. Here we share our 10 tips for making sure you harness social media in a compliant way.
1. Create a clear social media policy
Who is allowed post on behalf of your firm? Are there guidelines around the content they can share? What are you going to post, and how often? Do you have ‘house views’ on key topics that need to be adhered to?
Your policy needs to be clear, consistent and well communicated. It shouldn’t just cover your corporate accounts but employees’ personal social media as well.
2. Offer training
Make sure everyone knows the rules. Do they know if they’re allowed to post? Are they aware of appropriate content? Are they familiar with the FCA regulations and requirements around compliance?
Everyone should have mandatory training before they are able to represent the firm on social media.
3. Ensure content is fair, clear and not misleading
One of the FCA’s big focuses is that communications with customers and contacts is ‘fair, clear and not misleading’.
This can be a challenge in around 140 characters (if you’re using Twitter: you have a bit more leeway on Linkedin).
But social media is subject to the same requirements as financial promotions via any other channel. This means there’s no excuse for saying anything ambiguous or misleading just because you don’t have many words to play with.
4. Familiarise yourself with FCA rules on risk warnings
The FCA’s social media guidance was last updated in 2015. One of the main changes in the 2015 rules was around risk warnings, which the FCA says apply to social media in the same way as they do in any other medium.
You need to understand what this means in practice. The FCA guidance gives some good examples of tweets that would be compliant and non-compliant under this new rule.
5. Think about whether social media is the best channel
With the prevalence of Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook, it can be easy to think that every message you want to convey should be shared on social media.
But sometimes social media, with its immediacy and limited characters, isn’t the best channel. Don’t assume that everything needs to be shared via social platforms; think about the most appropriate medium for your message.
6. Don’t forget Compliance approval
The FCA expects you to get Compliance approval – and to keep the same standard of approvals documentation and evidence – for social media as they do for any other marketing materials.
You need to factor Compliance team review into your publishing schedule.
This might seem at odds with the ‘immediate’ nature of social media. Work with your Compliance team on an efficient approvals process. Introducing a level of automation can speed sign off as well as reducing the opportunity for error.
7. Be careful with hashtags
The 2015 guidance from the FCA sounds a note of caution on hashtags. Previously, the word #Ad was suggested to signify promotional tweets. The updated guidance repeals this, and also has guidance on hashtags as a whole – warning firms away from using generic tags that can muddy the waters between your content and others’.
Make sure you’re familiar with the rules so you don’t breach regulatory rules on hashtag compliance.
8. Social media post is a ‘non-real time’ promotion
This means that it falls under the same level of FCA scrutiny as ads, brochures or any other published materials. It’s not a ‘real time promotion like a conversation or a call.
This is a common misconception – you need to make sure your team and your business know the rules.
9. Understand the rules on retweeting, sharing and liking
In their 2015 guidance, the FCA confirmed that that if a firm retweets, shares, favourites or likes a consumer’s post, it constitutes endorsement, and may be classed as a financial promotion.
10. Archive all your posts and tweets
Documenting financial promotions and their approvals process is essential – and this too applies as much to social media as any other promotion.
You need to understand what constitutes compliant storage and archiving and ensure everyone responsible for social media is abiding by these rules.
Social media can be an invaluable way of sharing content, amplifying your messages and increasing awareness of your firm and its products.
But as with any other financial promotion, it’s also a potential minefield for regulated marketers. Follow these tips and you should stay on the right side of the FCA.