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Tips for Creating Social Media Policies for Financial Services

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Tips for Creating Social Media Policies for Financial Services

Chances are you haven’t given much thought to how FAIS, POPI and the Employment Act relate to your employees’ social media use.  Recent lawsuits show, having an active social media policy is an absolute must for all financial service providers…Big or small.

The use of social media is an excellent marketing tool if used wisely, but in the wrong hands, it can be severely damaging. Fortunately, most financial planners worth their salt know better than to post pics of wild bachelor parties to Instagram or to weigh in with controversial political views on Facebook.

But, as an FSP, it’s not just the obvious mistake that can get you into trouble. Have you ever shared a financial article written by someone representing a rival firm? Mentioned current economic events in a manner which may be construed as giving financial advice? Or even endorsed a business associate for a skill which may be at odds with your company’s investment strategy? Depending on the context, all three of these seemingly innocent actions could land your firm in legal hot water.

These tips will help you to develop social media policies which can leverage your brand efficiently while also ensuring legally compliant use by your employees.

Many brains make good decisions

Your team should include someone from management, marketing (including the leading digital guru), compliance, IT, HR and – very importantly – a social media lawyer. Getting input from loads people with differing personal and business perspectives is vital to the eventual success of the policy. Marketing will no doubt wish to lead the development, but the IT leader will have lots to contribute to data security. A team approach will also assist in ensuring buy-in from all your employees.

Foster a positive company ethos

You can’t control every aspect of your employees’ lives, but you can create a unique, caring and a positive company ethos that naturally permeates to the use of social media by your employees. Who wouldn’t want to base their company culture on the following tenets?

  • gratitude (for clients’ business and employment)
  • purpose
  • social inclusivity
  • open-mindedness
  • encouragement of self-development and care?

Just imagine the benefits of these principles being projected by all staff members across multiple social media platforms!

Get legal input

FAIS, POPI and labour law control just about everything we do – and social media is no exception. Here are a few issues to consider:

  • General code of conduct: How are employees who are bound by FAIS expected to behave on social media?
  • Reporting: Do social media posts constitute reporting to clients?
  • Record keeping: If clients communicate via social media, how will you archive the correspondence for five years?
  • Advice: Are ‘shares’ of related articles and ‘endorsements’ of skills considered to be online financial advice?
  • Supervision: Do employees who are under supervision need to have all their online communication approved before posting?
  • Vicarious liability: In which instances would you be held responsible for employees’ social media comments?

It’s critical to involve a social media specialist lawyer here. Obviously, this can be a costly exercise, but getting preventative advice is always cheaper than going to court!

Be general

The social media arena changes every day and if your policies are too detailed, they will soon be dated. In general, policies should focus on a master plan that includes:

  • Legal compliance
  • Branding
  • Purpose and values
  • Roles and responsibilities

Integrate and educate

The use of social media relates to many aspects of your business.  It’s good practice to reference social media policies in other policies and contracts including:

  • Use of electronic business equipment
  • Confidentiality
  • Privacy
  • Employment contracts

Policy integration helps to educate and sell the value of social media use to employees. Many social media-related lawsuits result from inexperience –  not spite – so by providing cyber-safely education to staff, you can prevent harmful situations from ever arising.

Highlight the need NOT to pitch for business on social media

Specify that social media is not the place to pitch for new business, as it’s somewhere that people go to consume content they’re interested in, rather than to be bombarded with irritating adverts.  Pitching also violates the regulation regarding the appropriateness of timing of marketing communication.

Related: Social Media in Financial Services: the Good, the Bad and the Litigious

Keep it going

Cyber-space is changing continually, and social media policies should be reviewed at least every three months by everybody on the team.  As with every other policy, your social media policy needs to remain applicable and include legal updates.

The bottom line: be prepared

Everyone has fundamental constitutional rights including the right to freedom of speech, privacy and confidentiality. But the social media space is somewhat labyrinthine and despite their rights, employees need guidance for their own good as well as for the benefit of the company.

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