Social Media in Regulated Industries – SMSS 2012 Recap

The Social Media Strategies SummitSMSS Vegas was a good conference. I enjoyed the sessions I was in though I wish there were “advanced” sessions for people who’ve been in the field longer than two seconds. There were sessions that felt beginner to me, too 101. Then there were sessions that were unknowingly similar to each other, with different speakers. Perhaps I’ve been in the trenches for too long.

As you know, I come from managing social media for food & beverage, travel & hospitality, and consumer products clients. Switching over to financial services is a new ball of wax. I’m not joking. It’s a regulated industry, and there are a lot more “rules” to follow – not only the internal rules by compliance and legal but the rules by many government organizations that help protect the consumer. That flashy promotion you see on Twitter and Facebook? Probably not going to fly here.

Much of my time at SMSS was spent in sessions with attorney and social media managers presentations on social media in regulated industries. Attorneys!?? Yes.  I found these to be fascinating… and I found myself validated in what I was doing “back home.”

One of the most useful workshops was one held before the official conference started. It was with Orrie Dinstein of GE Capital and Carisa Miklusak of tMedia Strategies on managing social media in a regulated industry. Orrie helped explain regulatory guidelines with the numerous acronymed government groups: FINRA, FTC, CUNA, CARU, CDA, DMCA, Note – FINRA is the most aggressive in publishing guidelines. Ie. They are 10% more hip to social media than the rest, which means they may have a meatier set of guidelines to abide by.

Did you know that if a doctor created a Facebook Page and a patient blasted him on the wall with “Hey Doc, you cut off the wrong leg! You’re a terrible doctor”, the doctor is not allowed to respond, even to denounce that claim (lie or not). If the doctor posts anything in response to that post, even if it was a false claim, the doctor would, of course, violate HIPAA. Do you see why I don’t recommend medical professionals be on social media? You’ve got to be extremely careful what you do when you’re in healthcare.

I found Orrie and Carisa to be refreshing and helpful. Their session confirmed that my strategies and tactics were right on the money at my new workplace. “Regulators don’t understand social media.” That’s ok – that gives us an opportunity to educate them! Part of my time is educating someone at work, be it an email or a “did you know” convo.

Here’s a takeaway that I thought was helpful in designing a guideline for employees at my workplace:

You’ve got to have a set of employee guidelines (or policy -depending on HR) – Just because you ban Facebook on their work computers doesn’t mean they can’t go on via their personal mobile phone. Employees must remember that if they are publicly linked to the company in some way (Twitter profile, FB profile, LinkedIn, etc), then they are bound to conduct themselves appropriately. You’ve got to make sure said employee discloses himself if he decides to post on the company FB page, or you lose that transparency to your audience. Guidelines help employees connect the dots between social/electronic communication to traditional forms of communication that are not allowed. (This would be like having a trader tweet about good stocks or bad stocks. You’d never do that via email or phonecall to your mom, so don’t broadcast it on your social channels.)

Examples of questions to address in your employee social media guidelines:

  1. Who can talk on behalf of the company?
  2. Who can talk to different audiences?
  3. What can they say? Can they create content? Can they use the company logo?
  4. How should they identify themselves in your social sphere?

Policy Integration: Help employees understand your employee SM guidelines.

  • Sending out an FAQ
  • Scripts
  • Internal training
  • Include in the employee code of conduct

For employees, the things you say or do outside of work that’s not about work can still affect you.

If your company is international, then you’ve got a set of international privacy laws that may also apply. Think about how you or your employees may engage in data transfers via social media.

Other attendees who were in the room worked for: utilities, insurance, healthcare, automotive, universities, pharma and financial services. I have to say, it was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one NOT in consumer products social media.

There were a couple other sessions I found to be useful, and I hope to post my recaps in the next week. Stay tuned!