• Content is king (but not why you might think)

    We’ve talked a lot about the issues surrounding social network adoption in financial services. We’ve dedicated entire whitepapers to understanding Notice 10-06, or the latest moves by the SEC or state regulators. While these macro conversations are important I find the question, to “like” or not to “like” continues to get a lot of attention, and rightfully so.

    Much has already been written about the fact that “liking” a piece of content can be viewed as an endorsement (for now I won’t go into all of the compliance issues associated with endorsements, entanglement, etc.). As a result most firms with registered reps choose to block this capability on the social networks.

    Before going any further let me offer a quick 101 class on sharing content. There are in fact multiple ways to “share” content and information across Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Likes, Shares, Favorites and ReTweets – these are all actions you can take on these popular sites but all basically produce the same result. They publish a “message” to your social network thereby spreading the content further. Since it was an action you took there is a perceived endorsement of that content.

    To make things a little more complicated we also have to remember that “liking” on Facebook has multiple uses. It is used to share information and show interest in a particular post but it is also used to connect to Facebook Pages (vs. adding a friend on a personal Facebook page). For the latter you are basically subscribing to that Page, opting in to receive that Page’s updates.

    As a test I wanted to see if the terms around content sharing affected a firm’s policy. In fact, today it does. We analyzed policies from across the industry and found the following:

    • 36% block Facebook and LinkedIn “Likes”
    • However, for those that block Facebook Likes, 0% block LinkedIn Comment Sharing, News Sharing and Update Sharing.
    • For those that block Facebook Likes only 20% block Twitter Favoriting and Retweets.

    It would appear that the action of “liking” is viewed differently than “sharing.” But should it? I would suggest no. If your policy is to prohibit the programmatic sharing of content (meaning it is shared by clicking a button vs. posting something manually) then that policy should apply to all social networks, for all content.

    Let’s dig into the notion of creating a basic post on these social networks. For example, creating a status update on Facebook or tweet on Twitter. Those posts may be original content or they may be a reference to some other piece of content you’ve found interesting. From this perspective you could argue that if you are going to block “liking” (used in the generic sense) then you should also limit the posts being made directly via the social networks themselves. While I hope this is not the case I feel compelled to offer the perspective.

    One thing I think we can all agree on is that whether it is social networks or some other medium the test is of the content itself. Sharing a post about the Cardinals winning the first game of the World Series (Go Cards!) clearly does not pose a risk, whereas sharing a message on a specific financial product could…it all depends on the content. As you can see, content is king. The message should be scrutinized vs. the action that delivers it to your social network.

    What is your take? We’d love to hear it. Just leave a comment below.

    And one more thing, this will be one of the many topics we are discussing at our Compliance User Group on November 4th. If you need more information please contact your Customer Success Partner.

    Category: Compliance, FINRA/SEC | Tags: , , , , .

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