By Christopher Hall.

There seems to be many social media experts around but few have much to say about the financial sector.

There’s a good reason for this. The financial services industry is a regulatory minefield, and getting social media wrong can cause it to blow up in your face.

As a result the financial services industry has trailed behind other sectors in social media, but that is now changing fast.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) released guidance back in March for social media activities, eliminating much of the uncertainty that surround regulatory compliance.

An important point for firms to remember is that the FCA’s rules are intended to be media-neutral, meaning any form of communication, including social media can be seen as a financial promotion. The fundamental requirement that all communications are ‘fair, clear and not misleading’ and all the other requirements apply to social media just as they do for any other media.

Getting social media strategies right can be a great way for any business to engage with its target audience, although firms need to use social media wisely and ensure that policies and procedures are in place so not breach the financial promotions requirements.

Key to this is knowing who has overall responsibility for use of social media and that senior management has ownership of the social media strategy.

Employees need to know what they can and can’t do over social media and have a clear understanding the importance of the rules. They also need to be aware of any escalation processes, and who to wake up at silly o’clock in the morning if something goes wrong?

Here are some top tips for getting it right:

Ensure all employees are trained and have a clear understanding of the firm’s social media policy – which should be clear on the boundaries and expectations on using personal social media accounts.

• Check if social media channel is best suited for your message
• Have a clear understanding on the FCA’s stance on risk warnings and other important information
• Ensure the original message is compliant, before deciding to re-publish. It may constitute a promotion and the firm would be responsible.
• Keep messages fair, clear and take care to ensure they are not misleading – including re-tweets.
• Clearly sign-post community standards. This can guide people on what will and won’t be tolerated on your pages.
• Ensure that you have adequate systems and controls in place to review, approve and supervise financial promotions.
• Don’t rely on digital media channels because they continually refresh content and, consequently, delete older material.

In conclusion, the rules are not rocket science – but you should familiarise yourself with the FCA’s guidelines and regulations before lift-off.