ShoeFitts Marketing, based in Portland, Oregon, has created two compliance-savvy social media products for financial advisers that incorporate social media into their businesses. “Advisers are confused about the difference between static and interactive actions,” Sheri Fitts, founder of ShoeFitts Marketing, told PLANADVISER.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) distinguishes different types of social media communications. The profile part of Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn is considered static content, since they cannot be altered by a different user. When a user updates the profile or posts a Tweet or status update, however, the content is considered interactive and has to be archived, the way email does, Fitts explained.
In 2010 FINRA issued some guidance on the use of social media by the financial services industry (see “Advisers Meet Compliance Hurdles to Using Social Media”). Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) weighed in with some guidance. (See “SEC Guidance: Tweet This, Not That.”)
But an adviser can still find some hurdles from the broker/dealer or compliance group. Fitts said that some advisers might have a compliance department that says every interaction in social media must be approved.
When regulatory concerns are coupled with the choices an adviser faces in social media platforms, many experience doubt and stress, Fitts said. People in financial services wonder if they need to use all the sites, or become expert in each. She helps break down the barriers, teaching people how to understand the medium and how to use it. And, Fitts said, age is no excuse: her father is a senior citizen and has a Facebook profile.
To combat the anxiety, Fitts said she brings the conversation around to where their clients are. “I start people off on LinkedIn: It’s the easiest way for them to see the business-to-business connection,” she said.
Some people might use the ambiguity of whether something is going to trigger a compliance issue as an excuse not to do anything at all in social media, but Fitts said that even without actively posting, social media can be used to research prospects or see who your clients know.
“It is important for financial professionals to be able to communicate efficiently and take part in this connection,” Fitts said. “We leveraged our nearly 20 years of experience within the regulated space of financial services to create Ready, Set, Social and the Social Media Boot Camp to ensure all aspects of regulation and social media interaction are covered.”
Ready, Set, Social is a social media development package with business profile creation for the main social networks as well as ongoing resources, such as social media policy templates, a customized listening channel and online training for employees. The cost is $2,500.
Social Media Boot Camp is a training service. Participants join a six-week online program where webinars are combined with offline assignments to foster a deeper understanding of social media marketing. ShoeFitts infuses marketing strategies with their knowledge of compliance issues and financial regulatory oversight to ease the concerns of financial professionals considering social media marketing. The cost is $1,200, with a $200 discount for those who register before March 29.
ShoeFitts Marketing works with retirement plan advisers, third-party administrators, and financial service organizations. More information is at www.shoefitts.com.