Tiptoeing Into Social Media (Part 1)

4/9/2013 9:18:53 AM

Healthcare companies, financial services firms and others are taking advantage of social media, even while awash in rules. Here’s how the do it.

Social networking is serious business within regulated industries. Posts pertaining to finance, insurance and healthcare, in particular, require adherence to strict government and industry regulations. However, even with the rule-a-palooza, some companies in these industries have not only found ways to keep regulators happy, but have also made social networking a productive and key part of doing business.

Tiptoeing Into Social Media

Tiptoeing Into Social Media

That said, the phenomenon is still in fairly early stages. Only around 10% of the companies in regulated industries have a “truly social” enterprise where multiple social media tools have been integrated into general content consumption, according to Toby Ward, founder of Toronto-based Prescient Digital Media, a consulting firm for Fortune 500 companies.

“It depends on the organization and their level of savviness,” he says. Companies where executives start their own blogs, for example, are more likely to use social media effectively and adopt it widely, according to a recent study by Prescient. “Almost all major banks have been in social media for at least a few years,” Ward says.

Show Me the Regulations

Banks are embracing social media despite the fact that the financial services industry may be subject to the strictest compliance requirements and regulatory mandates. In just one example, in January 2010, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) published guidelines for blogs and social networking sites that, among other things, outline specific record-keeping responsibilities and supervision requirements.

Banks are embracing social media despite the fact that the financial services industry may be subject to the strictest compliance requirements and regulatory mandates

Banks are embracing social media despite the fact that the financial services industry may be subject to the strictest compliance requirements and regulatory mandates.

That hasn’t stopped MassMutual, a Springfield, Mass.-based financial services firm, from using social media. “We developed our social media strategy by forging a partnership with key contacts in our company’s legal and compliance departments,” says Marie Politis, MassMutual’s vice president of online experience. “Regulatory requirements are even more stringent when it comes to communications by individual members of our sales force.”

MassMutual is working with Actiance, a Belmont, Calif.-based social media consultancy, to roll out a pilot program that meets FINRA’s requirement to review and archive initial, or static, social media posts. (“Static” is a term used by FINRA to describe initial posts; once the audience engages with the content, the resulting conversation is considered “interactive.”) Another MassMutual goal for its pilot program is to monitor interactive communications, which must be reviewed.

The benefits of connecting with existing and potential customers through social media make the effort worthwhile, practitioners say. “Money is a highly sensitive topic,” says Michelle Peluso, global consumer chief marketing and Internet officer at New York-based Citigroup. “One of the things social media allows us to do is to listen in to hear what people say about our brand, our competitors, our industry, products and services, and our people.” Even given all those advantages, though, “we have to think hard about the regulatory challenges,” she admits.

When customers have a bad experience with Citi, they may complain about it in the Twitterverse or on a blog. “We don’t let the fact that we’re a regulated industry dehumanize us,” says Peluso, who has a team of customer service reps who are trained to help people who criticize Citi on social media.

“We don’t use the same scripted response every time, which you may find with other banks that use a standard answer approved by Legal,” she says. “Our reps can use their real Voices’ and personalize a response.”

In addition, Citi reps have been trained to move customers off of public feeds and into a private chat environment, where issues can be resolved confidentially and securely.

Social media can also be used for more traditional marketing efforts, such as making sure people are getting the information they need and that the information is accurate, says Peluso.

Rebuilding Trust in Banks

“One current challenge we face is that many people have a deep-seated anger with the banking industry,” says Renee Brown, social media director at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo. “Consumers are not trusting us right now.” That makes it especially important to engage customers constructively via social media, since many people hit social sites when they have complaints.

But the need to, for example, retain client records for seven years and make sure company reps comply with the rules and regulations can delay efforts to get involved with social media. Wells Fargo partners with consultancies that help make sure the bank meets regulatory requirements and is still “able to interact with customers, clients and potential clients,” says Brown.

Wells Fargo’s vendors include Hearsay, Socialware and Actiance. “These companies offer software to help with pre- and post-review options to ensure content is appropriately vetted, helping to streamline our internal processes,” says Brown.

The two most regulated areas involve broker-dealers. They include investment banking and Wells Fargo’s brokerage unit, as well as its home mortgage consultant network, says Brown.

One of the first steps in resolving customer issues is to separate actionable complaints from people who simply want to vent

One of the first steps in resolving customer issues is to separate actionable complaints from people who simply want to vent, says Brown. From there, helping customers resolve problems must exclude, by law, giving financial advice via social networks.

“While you may post a note to a friend about an investment, when you are licensed, you can’t use certain terms such as mutual fund without it triggering the need for a disclosure,” says Brown. “We make sure we go through the right compliance reviews before it’s posted so nothing gets out there that shouldn’t be posted.”

This involves the bank’s vendors “along with our legal and compliance partners to ensure we have the right oversight in place, but also the ability to be timely in posting and responding on social media channels,” Brown says.

Similar Rules

Insurance industry regulations also require due diligence regarding social media interactions. Generally speaking, these are “the same rules that apply to advertising,” says Michele Wingate, social media manager at American Family Insurance in Madison, Wis.

Conversations or interactions posted by agents or anything on a social network must be archived in case they are needed for a response to any future legal challenge, Wingate says. To do that, American Family uses social media management software from Shoutlet, a provider of cloud-based social marketing tools.

Wingate admits it can be a challenge. “Our agents are eager to tap into other networks, but in order to comply with regulations, we can only use those for which we’re able to archive content,” she explains. Currently that list includes Facebook and Twitter, and it may be possible to archive Linkedln content later this year.

Interestingly, the largest response to an American Family corporate Facebook stream had nothing to do with insurance. Instead, it was tied to the company’s “Celebrating and Protecting” social media messaging effort, says Wingate. Conversations about National Chili Dog Day in July garnered more than 1,000 engagements (likes, shares and comments) a record number, says Wingate. “It was a happy thing, and those interactions kept us top of mind she says.

Video tutorials
- How To Install Windows 8

- How To Install Windows Server 2012

- How To Install Windows Server 2012 On VirtualBox

- How To Disable Windows 8 Metro UI

- How To Install Windows Store Apps From Windows 8 Classic Desktop

- How To Disable Windows Update in Windows 8

- How To Disable Windows 8 Metro UI

- How To Add Widgets To Windows 8 Lock Screen

- How to create your first Swimlane Diagram or Cross-Functional Flowchart Diagram by using Microsoft Visio 2010
programming4us programming4us