Monday, October 24, 2011

Tips on engaging in social media in regulated industries

Because social media moves at the speed of a tweet, it can be downright difficult for organizations in regulated industries such as financial services or healthcare to participate effectively. With some planning and incremental steps, though, successfully participating in social media can be a clear reality and success.

Here are some tips on engaging in social media in regulated industries:
  1. Start by listening. Listening to social media conversations does not break any rules or regulations, and provides insight into trends of topics.
  2. Develop cross-organizational support. Obtaining buy-in from departments ranging from legal to compliance to IT can smooth the road to social media engagement.
  3. Prepare key messages ahead of time. Just as in the preparation of talking points for traditional media, having key messages approved in anticipation of specific topics will allow quick social media responses.
  4. Develop accelerated approval times. Social media moves at the speed of a tweet, yet content needs to go through appropriate approvals – just faster.
  5. Train your organization. From executives to day-to-day contributors, provide an education on the importance and intricacies of social media.
  6. Remember that social media is a casual dialogue. Stilted language is out of place in social media. To comply with regulatory language requirements, consider linking to disclosures from tweets.
  7. Move beyond numbers in measurement. Numbers can provide some insight, but more meaningful indicators of success include consumer sentiment, engagement (comments and feedback), and development of new business relationships or the expansion of current ones.
  8. Develop a social media policy. Having a policy in place that includes the dos and don’ts of participation will make all stakeholders more comfortable. For instance, The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority requires that firms keep records of all communications on social media sites by their registered representatives and that those who participate in social media are properly trained and supervised. And to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, employees in the medical industry need to be sure not to reveal patient information.
These tips are from an article that I wrote with Jared Roy for PR News Digital PR Guidebook, Vol. 3. Read the full article.        
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