So you’re a registered rep. or an advisor who wants to harness the power of social media for business purposes. Maybe you want to raise brand awareness of your business, increase your personal profile, or perhaps start a blog to improve internet visibility and help educate your clients and potential clients. But what do you do when your firm says no to your social media plans?
First, take a deep breath. Understand that many firms are still somewhat scared about social media and its use for business purposes. This reluctance is likely rooted in three things: 1) a lack of understanding how social media tools work and can be good for business, 2) concerns about ensuring compliance with industry rules and regulations (especially for broker-dealers), and 3) concerns about how the firm can appropriately supervise your use of social media. Brokers must recognize that, for most firms, use of social media is still a very new concept and many firms have not developed any policies and procedures for its use, other than to just say no.
Brokers should not begin using social media in violation of firm policies. If they do, they may face the wrath of regulators (FINRA has announced that electronic communications and social media use are examination priorities for 2011). Rather, the broker can develop a proposed plan for use of social media and then speak with his supervisors and compliance folks. Find out what their concerns are, and address them. Educate your principals and compliance folks on the benefits of your plan, and demonstrate how the plan will be executed and how the firm can supervise it. Put in place safeguards that will let the firm pre-approve certain uses when needed, and provide for the archiving and retention of the media. Address issues relating to review and approval of both static and interactive media in your plan (see FINRA Notice 10-06 http://www.finra.org/Industry/Regulation/Notices/2010/P120760 ) See if you can get started on a trial basis, if needed, to show the firm that the plan will work. And finally, follow through on your plan, making sure that your compliance folks grant necessary approvals.