The Two-Step Approach to Social Media Compliance


Lauren Durfy

Whether you’re subject to HIPAA, the SEC, or FINRA, there’s a good chance you work within an industry that has strict regulations in terms of sales, advertising, marketing, and social media content.

These regulations will affect the type of social media and influencer marketing brands can create and require a strong compliance program – without it, social media can land organizations in hot water.

The Double Edge Sword of Social Media

Fines & Suspensions

These are every marketer’s nightmare. Your campaigns are going great then next thing you know you are under investigation for non-compliant social media marketing. In one year, FINRA levied 1,369 disciplinary actions against registered brokers and firms that resulted in $64.9 million USD in fines and expelled 20 firms.

Social Media and FINRA

HIPAA and the SEC are no different. The SEC imposes strict protocols on social media interactions, monitoring and record keeping. Even something as simple as a Facebook “LIKE” button can potentially cross-regulatory lines as it can be seen as an endorsement.

When Elon Musk took to Twitter on August 7, 2018, and announce he was considering taking Tesla private, he violated SEC regulations and the company received $20M USD fine.

Losing Out on Sales

With all these potential mishaps some businesses shy away from social media altogether, but as they say, you sometimes lose by taking risks, but you always lose by holding back. Companies that fail to leverage social media marketing are falling behind their competitors.

So How Do You Stay Compliant?

Address & Educate

Teaching people what they can and cannot say on social media affords companies more protection than being afraid of the subject and trying to avoid it. One of the easiest ways to ensure compliance is to know these regulations inside-out and educate the whole company on what’s acceptable for your brand on social media. While the specific rules for social media marketing vary based on regulation, the common theme is mitigation sharing risk while still creating an engaging social feed.

The key to compliance is widespread education in digestive bites. As a Compliance Officer or Social Media Manager, there’s zero excuse for not knowing the rules, but as a busy Mortgage Broker, Pharmaceutical Rep or Bank Teller knowing these regulations and how they related to posting on social media isn’t second nature. It is up to Compliance, Human Resources and/or Marketing to educate their employees on how they can best use social media.

Steps to Employee Education

1. Create Social Media Guidelines: This will be an all-encompassing manual employees can use as their main reference guide.

Employee Social Media Guidelines

Tip: Everything should be spelled out in black and white – minimal social media and marketing jargon should be used as this can cause potential misinterpretations. It should also be updated yearly to reflect the rapid changes happening on social.

> > > Here is a guide to designing a social media marketing plan for employee sharing

2. Social Media Training: In person or interactive training is a more engaging way to learn. It also gives employees the opportunity to ask questions.

Tip: host multiple types (webinars, in-person, guided quizzes, videos, etc.) on multiple dates – this allows employees to find a training program that appeals to their way of learning and schedule.

3. One-Pagers: Short and sweet, easy to follow one-page docs are often the most consumed because they seem the least overwhelming.

Tip: do not underestimate the value of a visually appealing easy-to-read one-pager. People are inherently visual and will be more enticed to consume information on a one-pager with lots of whitespace and A clean straightforward design.

Social media cheat sheet banner

Monitor & Update

The best defense is a good offense. Education will lesson mistakes, but eventually, someone will mess up. This is where teams that monitor the social media of their branded accounts and employees who choose to use social media for business purposes can come out ahead.

How to Leverage Technology

Social Listening Tools: These tools help social media managers and compliance officers catch possible off brand and/or non-compliant messages by sifting through hundreds of thousands of posts.

Tip: Find social listening tools that can be keyword customized, track message sentiment and have a firm understanding of the regulations your organization is subject to.

Employee Advocacy Platforms: These platforms create a central repository of pre-approved content that can help to guide employees on what content to share as well as making it easier for them to do so on a long term consistent basis.

Tip: Look for platforms with built-in compliance tools. These are like in-app gatekeepers and live action trainers on what is and isn’t acceptable sharing terminology. Below is a photo of PostBeyond’s Compliance Feature.

PostBeyond Compliance Feature

Key to Compliance

The key to staying compliant is mitigating possible sharing mistakes. This can be done through building solid processes, company-wide education, and leveraging technology to manage a lot of the heavy lifting. Social media marketing is a powerful way to generate brand awareness, leads and interact with customers – and it should not be pushed aside out of fear.

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