Something interesting happened last week: FINRA, the Finance Industry Regulatory Authority, released new guidelines specific to social media sites for registered professionals and companies.
FINRA’s choice to differentiate between static and interactive content for social networking sites is something unique I’ve not seen in other types of regulatory guidelines related to social media.
I am not a lawyer, so for specific details or direct interpretation, please consult one.
Interactive “Postings” No Longer “Advertisements”
Under FINRA’s new rules, static content is to be treated as an advertisement subject to verbatim approval from a compliance official as well as a principal of the firm. Static content on social networks would be profile information, images, background graphics and other content that to remain somewhat permanent.
On the other hand, interactive content is classified as communication under FINRA’s new guidelines and does not require principal approval but does need to be supervised in a manner similar to email communication. FINRA’s member firms should already be accustomed to similar archiving and supervising procedures — these same guidelines now extend to activity in social networks.
Why This Signifies Progress
In the past, all online postings, including those now classified as communication, were instead regarded as advertisements and were subject to principal approval. Having a principal of the firm approve every single status update or posting to a social network like Twitter would seem downright prohibitive [read: not worth the trouble] to what many consider is the best way to participate: frequent, conversational posts.
Many see the new rules as a sign that social networks have entered the mainstream. What do you think?
Supervision and archiving are still a key part of the process for FINRA companies, but firms are not held accountable for “third-party posts” [read: user generated content] on company blogs and social profiles.
The FINRA social media task force does, however, recommend the adoption of best practices that include:
- establishing appropriate usage guidelines for customers and other third parties that are permitted to post on firm-sponsored Web sites;
- establishing processes for screening third-party content based on the expected usage and frequency of third-party posts
- disclosing firm policies regarding its responsibility for third-party posts
Download the full PDF of FINRA’s new guidelines for social media sites.
The best practices here definitely seem reasonable for company-owned media like blogs and online communities.
What do you think of FINRA’s new rules? A step in the right direction? Dangerous for member companies or consumers?
Or, are policies that encourage supervision and archiving enough to keep companies from engaging in social media in a real and genuine way?
I’m interested to know how others feel about this kind of oversight.Image of Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations theory courtesy of Wesley Fryer
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