In highly regulated industries—including Financial Services, Pharmaceuticals, and Healthcare—a single social media post done incorrectly can lead to legal and financial trouble. Agencies such as the SEC and FINRA have strict rules regulating social media marketing.
However, companies in highly regulated industries can still benefit from employee advocacy if they invest in proper guidelines, processes and tools. A strategic employee advocacy plan can help you reach a wider audience while ensuring that your employees post content without getting into trouble.
The risks and regulations of employee advocacy
If you’re starting an employee advocacy program, the first step is to understand your industry’s social media regulations. Some of the regulatory bodies you may need to consider include:
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
- The US Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HHS, which is responsible for HIPAA laws)
- The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
Each governing body has a distinct set of rules for social media (and other forms of communication). Different industries face varying risks, and the responsibility falls on different employees or organization members in each case.
For example, the SEC’s protocols on social media interactions are so strict that even “liking” a Facebook post can potentially cross regulatory lines. FINRA Regulatory Notice 17-18, “Guidance on Social Networking Websites and Business Communications,” outlines how finance businesses should manage sharing, storing and auditing messages on social networks.
Why do these industries have so many regulations? According to a poll conducted at the 2018 FINRA Annual Conference, the main concerns regarding social media in the financial sector included:
- Unauthorized social media accounts
- Inability to capture and retain all content
- Promotion of false or misleading content
- Inappropriate sharing of private information
To mitigate these risks, companies need to create guidelines that highlight what employees can safely post on social media. A quality employee advocacy solution takes into account regulatory considerations for compliance, record-keeping, communication and privacy rights.
How to create a compliance-focused employee advocacy program
The first step to social media compliance is to know your industry’s regulations inside and out—and ensure that your employees know them too.
More often than not, this means training employees on what they can and can’t post on social media. While the regulations vary based on your location and industry, the main focus should be on mitigating risk while still creating an engaging, customer-focused social media presence.
The problem? Busy employees may not have the time (or motivation) to stay up to date with social media regulations. It would help if you made it easy for your employee advocates to create engaging, compliant social posts.
You can facilitate this by:
- Making guidelines accessible and digestible
- Hosting social media training on compliance
- Leveraging employee advocacy technology
1. Make your employee social media guidelines accessible and digestible
First, create an employee manual for social media. Leave out the legal jargon and give clear examples of what employees can and can’t do. Make sure that this manual is easy to find and is updated regularly.
Social media and industry regulations change fast—your employee advocacy program needs to stay on top of those changes.
2. Host social media training on compliance
Next, host training events that let employees ask questions and learn more about employee advocacy compliance and regulation.
Make compliance training part of employee onboarding. Don’t forget to also host additional refresher courses for seasoned employees—or updated training courses as regulations change.
If you have a compliance team or compliance office, work closely with them to understand the latest developments and share those with your employee advocates as they arise.
3. Leverage employee advocacy technology
Finally, equip your brand and your employees with the technology you need to succeed — and protect your brand on social media.
A social listening platform can help you monitor potential non-compliant messages by automatically sifting through hundreds of posts. Social listening tools let you set specific keywords, track message sentiment and flag posts that don’t meet your industry’s regulations, heading off problems before they become legal issues.
It would be best if you also considered implementing an employee advocacy platform. An employee advocacy platform lets you create a centralized library of pre-approved content for employees to share. Centralizing your content simplifies employee advocacy for you and your employees. After all, the more guidance you offer, the less there is to worry about compliance.
The streamlined workflow provided by an employee advocacy platform keeps your brand voice consistent and ensures that your employees share the right content to the right social networks.
Those in highly regulated industries must look for an employee advocacy platform with built-in compliance features. Many of these platforms can accommodate different levels of users with different permissions based on their role, which helps businesses deliver pre-approved content to employees confidently and accurately.
Also, look for the capability to restrict or prohibit specific keywords or terms before they’re live on social media. This includes social posts that contain key phrases such as “guaranteed” or “proven cure.” You should consider an archival component that can report on which violations occurred and by which employee as well.
Get started with employee advocacy in a regulated industry
A potential compliance crisis on social media can make employee advocacy daunting for brands in regulated industries such as financial services, pharmaceutical, healthcare and insurance. But regulations and compliance concerns shouldn’t stop you from leveraging employee advocacy to reach more people and boost your brand.
Stay compliant by staying up-to-date on guidelines, training your employees and leveraging technology that makes it easy for employees to share the right content on the right channels.