Clear Policy Is Key in Social-Networking Compliance

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Five Best Practices on Social Media Use

Pointers on setting acceptable-use policies for your employees' social media habit while they are at work.

When the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) decided to allow advisers to use social-networking tools for business - within appropriate parameters, of course - the folks at Smarsh knew that social-networking archiving and compliance systems were going to be big. Not only would they be big in financial services, but also in other highly regulated sectors.


Financial services leads the conversation when it comes to best practices for archiving and compliance, according to Smarsh VP Sam Kolbert-Hyle. "Whatever we're talking about in financial services eventually comes up in government and education and some of the other heavily regulated industries," he told me. "It's a good barometer for where things are going..."


Best practices for social media compliance in financial services then, he says, involve "after-the-fact" or post-review archiving, compliance and supervision. That usually means reviewing a random sampling of posts for compliance with company policies and then addressing compliance failures as necessary. Because social networking most often happens in real time, there's no real room for review before statuses are updated or posts are made.


However, there are instances in which pre-review is necessary, Kolbert-Hyle said. He explained:

When there is static content-whether it's a Facebook profile or a LinkedIn profile or something else - that could be considered advertising, it must be pre-reviewed by a principal of the firm.

Even more important, though, is a well-defined company policy on what is permissible in that type of content and what is not. Social networking is growing in popularity in the financial services sector because those who use it generate more business and are more successful. If the policy is not clear and easily enforced, then the company's efforts to increase business with social networking will be in vain.