Social media presents both opportunity and challenge. Unlike any other technology we’ve used in the industry to date (email, websites, et al), social occurs everywhere and on every device. In fact the single biggest gateway to social media remains mobile and tablet devices. For example, Facebook had 50 million users when the iPhone launched in 2007. By 2010 when we received the iPad, that number had grown to 600 million and now is north of 1 billion users worldwide. 50% of those users are mobile. Likewise since 2010 LinkedIn and Twitter users have at least doubled.

The clear opportunity is our customers and their families, friends and peers are already quite active on social media. This stands true across the demographics of age and race. For consumers, social media is about connecting, about learning and following what is important to them and to extending relationships. For our business – being so relationship driven – this is a welcome place to join in.

Likewise our challenge is clear – the regulatory rules that manage electronic communications were also written for the singular nature of email and websites – yet we must live within those rules until they evolve (which they are slowly – and we are watching closely). The good news is the methods and technology exists to be the enabler to connecting social media to our business.

The fundamentals to getting started are available to us:

The Social Media Policy                                            
The key to engaging on social is a clearly defined policy that sets the vision and outlines how we will use social media in our business.

  • What are our goals? Who are we seeking to reach; for what purposes and across what mediums (text, images, audio, video et al)?
  • How will we meet the requirements for compliance – archiving and supervision?
  • Who will participate in our social media initiatives? Who is authorized? Will we include third party providers? What will the process be for content management, approval and mitigation?
  • What platforms do we intend to leverage for the above? Some are borad-based (i.e. Facebook) and some will be niche for special content or audience purposes (i.e. iTunes, Sound Cloud, YouTube).

The Social Media Team

Don’t let the title mislead you. This is not to infer the need for all manner of outside specialists and providers. At its core – social media is about the evolution of your business (regardless of its size). It takes commitment and support from all tiers. Once you have this equation solved internal to your business – then it may make sense to find additional outside resources to help you further design and manage your social media activities. (possible pullquote here – “When selecting outside specialists to help you manage social media – it is critical that they have clear experience in your industry along with social media credibility”) Just remember – quality and authenticity outweigh quantity.

  • Leadership – a belief that social media matters in your business and executive support to take the steps and make the changes for it to become a part of your “DNA”.
  • The Staff – Clearly where the rubber meets the road. The folks that day in and day out interact with clients, partners and influencers for your business. Social occurs via networking, customer service, marketing and sales here. Some of the most meaningful social activity can occur here – even though it may not be the most visible.
  • The Supporting Cast – your influencers, fans and partners. They have to clearly understand your goals and that social is not a bolt-on but a facet of communications in your business that factors in to phone calls, meetings and the day to day operations. They can interact, share, refer and support your social initiatives (and you to them as well).

The Technology

Central to being active in the digital world involves recordkeeping and compliance supervision. It is a fact of life in our industry. What was a burgeoning new tech sector in 2009 (social media archiving) has grown just as social media has evolved. The tools exist to support the compliant use of social media at both the institutional level as well as at the individual level.

The central theme to remember here is that social media happens everywhere and all the time. Be prepared to choose a technology that makes this effortless for your business and your team members to easily engage on social and insure their content and activity is archived and manageable.

While there has been some doubt and confusion over how to properly participate in social media – the path to social is available and you can follow steps, understand the rules and take advantage of the tools.

Compliance 101 Checklist

  1. Social Media Policy is the ticket to entry to the use of social media. Start there and you will be more prepared to move ahead.
  2. When selecting a compliance solution for social media – think about ease of use. Social media happens on every device and at all times and places. Choose a provider who can accommodate this with simplicity and meet your needs.
  3. Content that gets shared widely and publicly falls into the advertising and marketing materials classification. Understand who regulates you (FINRA, SEC, states) and know how advertising content is treated.
  4. Testimonials are prohibited. We may not like it – and we know they are very valuable when given word of mouth. But when they are written they are likes ads. Just steer clear until the regulatory bodies change their minds. LinkedIn Skills Endorsements likely fall into this area – though no final ruling is in. Avoid for the near future.
  5. If in doubt about what is static content (blog posts, articles, profile backgrounds and bios, etc.) versus interactive (tweets, status updates, etc.) – have content compliance-reviewed before you use it.