We all know social media gives us access to a vast audience at our fingertips. As a financial adviser, you might use the medium to be closer to your clients and connect with them using tools they’re familiar with. However, in such a regulated industry, finding the balance between showcasing your business’ human side while catering to your professional interests can be challenging. So here are a few tips.
Find your voice
The truth is more and more advisers are turning to social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram to communicate with clients so it’s easy to feel lost in the crowd, unable to make yourself heard.
If you’re communicating on your personal account, you have the freedom to be imaginative in creating posts that humanise your business. A nice way to convey a message that resonates with your audience might be sharing some individual industry-related projects such as a personal blog or a podcast. When using social media on a company-level, however, there are some boundaries to creativity since firms have to create content according to the company’s brand characteristics, as well as follow regulatory restrictions by the FCA.
Mind the rules
In 2015, the FCA created a set of guidelines with the purpose of helping advisers to navigate social media without compromising any compliance issues. Given that you and your firm are probably handling social media platforms on a daily basis, I thought it would be nice to remind you of some of the takeaways from the FCA guidance:
According to the FCA, a financial promotion is “a communication that is an invitation or an inducement to engage in a financial activity”. Basically, this concept covers any communication that, in some way, incites people to engage in a financial activity either coming from a company account or from a their personal account communicating on behalf of a firm.
In both cases, the firm is responsible in the eyes of the regulator. It is very important that promoted and non-promoted posts are clearly distinct to your followers. It must be as obvious as possible even though the use of #ad or any other hashtag is not advised since it may present the post to someone who wasn’t searching for it.
Clear, fair and not misleading
These can be considered as the three pillars of any compliant publication on social media platforms. To the FCA, each social media post is standalone and has to comply with the rules presented in the guidance. Thus, in obviously promotional posts it is mandatory that firms warn their followers of any potential risks associated with the products being advertised, never guaranteeing certain future returns on their investment whatsoever.
As a financial adviser, you must dodge creating unrealistic expectations for your clients and followers. Using small text, not disclosing risk information, and presenting misleading claims are all practices to be avoided. In a social platform such as Twitter, where there is a character limit in the posts, the FCA recommends the use of imaging, infographics, videos, or any other form of visual representation which can carry the information needed for it to be compliant.
Responsibility for sharing
One thing is for sure, once it’s online it’s there forever. You never know how far a post can travel and you have no control over it once you press that ‘publish’ button.
When your posts are forwarded, retweeted, and shared the responsibility lies with the communicator, which means your firm is only responsible for any lack of compliance in the original content but if someone decides to share it and add their own comments and opinions the responsibility shifts to them.
On another note, if you, as a firm or an employee on behalf of a firm, share or retweet content from a client which is clearly endorsing a financial product, the FCA can intervene as it is considered blunt self-advertising – and any promotion, even a retweet of some praise of your company or services, might need a risk warning.
Go with the flow
The fact that there is regulation means the FCA recognises the importance of digital channels for the industry as tools to add value to the business and allow advisers to engage with clients in a more relatable and fun way. For regulators, it should be seen as a place to diffuse interesting and entertaining content instead of promoting services and products. However, this guidance shouldn’t be perceived as an obstacle to creating stimulating content for your social networks, look at it as a way of getting the creative juices flowing.