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Experts answer your questions about social media for the finance industry

SmartBrief’s recent webinar “Building Equity: Social Media Meets Finance” covered best practices for developing a social-media strategy ,as well as how financial companies in particular can benefit from having a social-media presence. Regulator FINRA also shared key points from its recent regulatory notice on social-media sites.

The webinar participants had more questions to ask than there was time to address — so SmartBrief took those unanswered questions and put them to the speakers. If you missed the webinar, click here to access the recording.

Since social media is really about building relationships and having a conversation with your customers, can give specific examples where customer input has had an influence on business strategy?

Shiv Singh, author of “Social Media Marketing for Dummies” and director of digital marketing at PepsiCo North America: Having just joined PepsiCo, I can say one example in terms of product strategy is the Mountain Dew Democracy campaign, which asked consumers to determine the flavors of a limited-edition Mountain Dew variant. That product is now being sold commercially. With social media driving business strategy, my favorite example is the American Red Cross. They’ve changed the way they raise money thanks to social media.

How are financial services companies in the B2B space utilizing social media?

Singh: Financial services companies in the [business-to-business] space are doing much less largely because they need to stay at the pace of their customers and not be too far ahead. However, organizations like TIAA-CREF are using social media to build their brands. The Raise the Rate program that they just launched is a perfect example of that.

How do FINRA rules apply to registered investment advisers (RIAs)?

Amy Sochard, director of programs and investigations, Advertising Regulation Department of FINRA: FINRA rules apply to the business conduct of broker dealers that are members of FINRA and their associated persons, regardless of whether the firm or individual is also a registered investment adviser.  FINRA rules do not apply to firms that are not members of FINRA or to individuals that are not associated with FINRA member firms.  FINRA does not apply the Advisers Act Rules.

Click here for a copy of FINRA’s Regulatory Notice 10-06 on Social Media Web Sites.

What would you describe as your most successful social-media initiative to date and why?

Amy Dobra, principal and head of retail client experience, The Vanguard Group: I would have to say the Vanguard blog.  For one thing, it accessible — users don’t need another account to access the information, and we have also integrated it into our monthly e-mail newsletter to clients so it’s easy to find it there or on our home page.  There are also no privacy or perceived technical hurdles, which has prevented some from accessing our other social outlets.  And lastly, we are getting rich feedback from clients, solid readership – and it helped to forge the processes now used by our other forays into social media.

Do you have any best practice suggestions for dealing with comments on blogs, Facebook, etc?

Dobra: I feel like I can’t say it enough … make the time and resource commitment.  For example, Facebook seems “lightweight” to people, but it’s not.  If you are in a regulated industry, then you need to monitor and retain everything.  We continue to look for ways to make the process more efficient, but don’t underestimate the manual component — at this point, technology can only take you so far, so you need to plan to have staff looking at everything. You also need to take a breath, since not all comments will be rosy.  You can’t just jump in at the tiniest issue; it’s much better to allow for the community itself to self-correct the conversation.  Think about engaging when you think you are really going to add value or if you need to correct false information being discussed.  Of course, you need to establish clear commenting guidelines so that fans have set expectations on what is not allowed on the page. From our experience, generally fans appreciate the openness and aren’t surprised when comments are deleted.

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