10 Dos and Don’ts for FCA-compliant Twitter.
When the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) updated its social media guidance in March 2015, it brought up to date guidelines that had previously been unchanged for some time.
Prior to the update, the guidance for regulated firms using social media as part of their financial promotions was unclear. Today, although the guidance is more prescriptive, many regulated marketers are still unsure on how they can make the most of social media and still work within the guidelines.
The good news is that it’s possible to have an effective and compliant social media strategy. Here we share 10 dos and don’ts for FCA-compliant Twitter.
- Remember Twitter is a ‘non-real time’ financial promotion
This is something the regulator was at pains to clarify in its new guidance, as many people believed Twitter’s immediacy made it a ‘real time’ promotion – like phone calls or emails – which aren’t subject to such strict regulation.
- Hashtags do not denote promotions
One significant change in the March 2015 requirements was to the use of hashtags. Previously, #ad was suggested as a way of showing that a tweet was a financial promotion. The 2015 guidance reversed this, stating that hashtags are not sufficient to denote adverts.
- In fact, beware of hashtags generally
The guidance also warns against the use of hashtags overall. The FCA’s concern is that using a hashtag (for example, #assetmanagement) takes the reader to a curated page of tweets on that topic, most of which won’t be from the firm in question.
- Make tweets fair, clear and not misleading
Fair, clear and not misleading is one of the key tenets of the FCA’s thinking on financial promotions. And tweets are no exception. They may be short, but if you can’t make what you want to say clear and fair in 140 characters, think about whether another channel might be better for your message.
- Consider your target audience
The regulator’s guidance says that firms need to think about their target audience, the nature of the product or service they want to promote and the likely information needs of the average reader of the promotion. All these will inform the way you word your tweet.
- …And think about how that audience could grow
One of Twitter’s main benefits, of course, is its ability for your content to be shared. Retweets are one of the objectives of posting on Twitter. But you need to think about this when posting a financial promotion. Will your tweet still be fair, clear and not misleading if it reaches a wider audience than you originally intended?
- Make sure your tweet is standalone compliant
The guidance says that each communication has to comply with the relevant rules on a standalone basis. This means that any promotional tweet needs a risk warning. In reality, this usually means that tweets need to be factual rather than promotional.
- Rules on prominence apply in tweets
Don’t think you can get away with risk warnings added in small fonts as images (nice try!) – as the FCA’s rules on prominence apply to tweets as elsewhere. Risk warnings, disclaimers and disclosures need to be prominent or they will fail the FCA’s test.
- Use images in a compliant way
Although ‘image advertising’ – for example, tweets which only contain a firm’s logo, details of their activity and contact details – can be used, some of the same rules apply. Images still need to be fair, clear and not misleading.
- Retweeting can be a financial promotion
The guidance states that if you retweet a tweet from someone else – for example, a client expressing satisfaction with your business – this constitutes a financial promotion. You therefore assume some responsibility for any non-compliance in the original tweet. Think carefully before retweeting!
Hopefully this has given you a good flavour of the FCA regulations on Twitter.