All too often the regulations governing particular market sectors – finance, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, legal etc. – are used to excuse a lack of activity when it comes to social media. Banks and other financial institutions are especially guilty of hiding behind Financial Services Authority regulations. In one extreme case, the marketing head of a leading financial services company admitted to me that it was taking them 10 days to issue a Tweet.
In reality, social media professionals operating within even the most highly regulated of environments, have a reasonable degree of freedom and flexibility in which to work: they simply need to stick to some basic principles:
- Make sure everyone involved in social media understands the regulations that govern your sector: what they can and can’t do and say. Don’t simply rely on the interpretation of the compliance experts within your company.
- At the same time build bridges with the compliance and legal professionals within your organisation. Although naturally cautious and risk averse, in my experience most are smart enough to see the value that the organisation can derive from social media.
- Explain the regulatory constraints under which you operate to employees, customers and other stakeholders. If they understand the reasons why you cannot do or say certain things, they are less likely to criticise you.
- Talk to the regulators and share best practice with other companies within your industry. Regulation is generally struggling to keep pace with the fast moving world of social media and the people responsible for drafting it will value your help and advice.
- Create a library of approved content covering the most popular topics. For all that we talk about the importance of agility and responsiveness within social media, it is possible to pre-prepare the vast majority of the content that you will actually need. This will give you the ability to issue or link to material that complies with all regulations, without the need for complex approval processes.
- Put together a set of operating protocols and an escalation procedure that will ensure that on those rare occasions when something goes wrong, your company is able to involve the right people at the right time.
- Commit to a culture of continuous learning. Share best practice and bad practice on a regular basis across your organisation.