Ask any mutual fund manager or ETF provider about using social media and likely the first thing to come up will be compliance. Staying compliant within an open and for the most part uncontrollable communications channel is a challenge and one of the main reasons for the industry's slow adoption of social media strategies. But even the most hesitant firms can't deny that social media is here to stay.
A December 2013 study from the Pew Research Internet Project estimates that 73% of U.S. online adults are using at least one social network, up from 46% in 2009. For that reason, firms that are able to implement social media now may have a distinct advantage in understanding and leveraging the various platforms in the years to come as they continue to increase in use. While the SEC and FINRA have released more substantial guidance on social media use recently, many firms still view social media as risky in the current climate of increased regulatory scrutiny. The industry's slow adoption is not all that different from what happened in the mid-1990s as the internet began to boom and firm websites began to pop up. As guidance from the SEC and FINRA became clearer, nearly every firm developed a website, even if it took a while. You'd be hard pressed to find a firm that doesn't have one today. It's not hard to envision this same scenario playing out with social media over the next few years. But before jumping in head first, here are a few tips and considerations to ensure that your social activity doesn't lead to compliance headaches.