Social media risk management. These four words are enough to strike fear into the hearts of dealer groups and advisers.

For a lot of you weighing up the pros and the potential cons and problems that can arise from getting it wrong, it’s easier to just put social media in the ‘too hard” basket. And we know from our conversations with advisers and licencees that are a lot of you are doing just that…

However, we also talk to a lot of advisers who derive a great deal of benefit from their social media presence, finding that it helps enormously with general client engagement and referrals. Those that are doing it well share a common trait: they execute their social media in accordance with a strategy that encompasses risk management.

Social media risk management isn’t as much of a minefield as you might think. First off, the likelihood of something bad happening can be mitigated. Most of the things that can potentially go wrong with a social media presence are what you’d call ‘known knowns’; eventualities that you’ve heard of before, and can protect against. It’s a comparatively informal channel and you are not going to be providing anything that could be construed as advice over this channel. Although social media is a form of communication that’s covered by your compliance obligations, it’s not actually that hard to remain compliant.

Perhaps most importantly, there’s the fact that the negligible risk of using social media is far outweighed by the proven benefits. These benefits include greater opportunities for client acquisition, stronger engagement through the client’s journey with your firm, and even branding opportunities which could transform your spot in the marketplace.

Here are the three steps you need to take to create a social media policy that works for your practice.

1. Include a strategy

You want to make sure that any policy you have is in line with the type of activities – posts, tweets, online ‘events’ etc. – that you expect to be doing. So the first thing you’ll need to do is draft a quick social media strategy. It doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact, you could probably fit it on a single page. Check out this (US-based) guide to best practice for some tips. However you phrase your strategy, make sure it includes these points:

  • what you’re going to do
  • when/how often you’re going to do it
  • who’s going to be responsible

2. Take some tips from companies that use social media successfully

This doesn’t have to mean other financial services organisations. For example, take a look at the Facebook page of the last big store you visited – say, a department store or supermarket. Look at how their online team responds to customer comments, both negative and positive. You may notice some risk management tools that you can apply to your new social media policy, such as:

  • If multiple staff members respond to posts/messages/Tweets, have them sign their name or initials at the end of the response so you can keep track of who’s handled what.
  • If a client has complained, be sensitive in your response and attempt to move the dialogue to a private setting. For example, you might ask them to call or message.
  • Make sure that anything that is shared has been fact checked and vetted for questionable content – even opinion pieces
  • Don’t allow staff members to comment/engage using their personal profiles.
  • Set reasonable rules for employees’ personal social media presences. This is a big one!

3. If in doubt, don’t draft your policy from scratch

Drafting a social media policy is meant to take the stress out of trying something new – not make things more confusing! If in doubt, try using a template and adjusting it to your organisation’s needs. The Institute of Community Directors has a handy template. Just make sure that whatever you borrow from, the final policy document meets relevant guidelines such as RG234.

For more on how to make social media easy, stay tuned for future blogs.