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How to Stay Compliant & Use Social Media

If I had a nickel for every time an advisor told me they preferred to steer clear of social media, “because of compliance,” I’d have quite the outstanding nickel collection. I have a few issues with that reasoning.

  1. When you avoid doing something that could benefit your business (in a big way) because you’re unwilling to learn the compliance regulations you need to abide by it means one of two things. It could mean that you’re super pressed for time and have no extra space in your schedule to stay up to date on compliance rules regarding social media. That’s fair, you’re a busy bee, I get it. But it’s more likely that you’re afraid of compliance – and therefore aren’t willing to do anything that could put you at risk. If you’re making decisions for your business’s growth and betterment, do you really want those decisions to be fear based? I don’t want that for you.
  2. When you “steer clear” of social media as a financial advisor you are missing a large portion of potential clients – especially if you target anybody in Gen X/Y or millennials. You also are going to miss anybody in a particularly tech-savvy field. One of the first things I do when looking up a new company or business is to check out their website and their social media presence to get a feel for what to expect from them. If you don’t have a presence where your target audience is already spending their time online, they might not know you exist. That’s bad marketing.

So, how do you do social media while still staying compliant? It’s actually not as tough as it looks.

If you work for a larger financial planning firm, figure out where they stand on social media.

I guarantee they have a stance, some form of training, or a compliance department that can give you some guidance. The more you reach out to figure out what to do (and what not to do) the more likely you’ll find social media success. Do you have a business associate or team leader who regularly uses their social media to market themselves and your firm? Talk to them. What are they doing to protect themselves?

Archive everything in case you need to review it later.

This might be a no-brainer, and it’s incredibly likely that you already use some sort of archiving service for your website or business blog. I usually recommend that advisors use social media scheduling tools to get started. It will save you time and make being socially “present” possible even when you’re up to your ears in meetings and work to do. An additional benefit of social schedulers is that most of them come with an archiving tool that they use for analytics and data tracking. There are also software programs that specialize in keeping your social media archives in order to stay compliant. For example, I’ve heard good things about Smarsh.

Don’t give advice, and don’t endorse.

This may seem like a given, but I really do find that it’s the best available piece of advice when it comes to social media. Don’t give direct advice and don’t openly endorse any companies or service. The key is to post content that’s educational, not directional. Your goal on social media is to create an authentic online persona, engage with your followers, find new prospects, and provide valuable content to your audience. You’d never advise someone on their personal financial situation without knowing their background, and the same rule applies to social media. If you think that someone could take a tweet or a Facebook update as a direct recommendation on what mutual fund they should invest in, don’t post about that.

Remove any recommendation or endorsement tools existing on your profiles.

Clients and colleagues who mean well may want to give you a 5-star rating on Facebook, but that’s a no-go when it comes to compliance. Anything that looks like it’s a testimonial is a compliance problem. If someone does give you a positive rating on a social site, remove it, then remove the option for anybody else to “rate” your business.

When in doubt, add a disclosure.

Having a quick, one-sentence disclosure on your social profiles isn’t a bad idea. “Posts, follows, likes, and shares aren’t advice or endorsements” will usually do the trick. Find the wording that works best for the specific channel and put it in your “About” section or your headline that contains your info.

See? Staying compliant with social media is essentially dependent on using common sense. And if you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to me or check out the CFP Board of Standards Social Media Guide. They have some excellent pieces of advice as well as regulations to follow in their PDF.