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What the new FCA Social Media Guidance means for you

Published: 26 April, 2016

Social media, depending on which camp you’re in, is either the greatest vehicle for brand exposure since the advent of the printing press, or a fool’s gold of limited means and negligible effect.

But I’m not going to argue the merits, or otherwise, of the social media revolution.

Instead, I write with a timely warning:

The FCA has just published final guidance concerning its supervisory approach to financial promotions and customer communications in social media.
You must comply with these guidelines when using social media for marketing purposes.
I’m about to summarise what this entails, but first let’s be clear what we’re dealing with. All of the following fall under the FCA’s social media umbrella:
Blogs, microblogs, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc), forums, and image and video-sharing platforms. Basically, any form of digital communication (except email, which has its own set of rules) that you use to promote financial products and services.
Remember, just because it’s social media doesn’t mean normal FCA rules are any different – the sign-off and record-keeping provisions in the FCA Handbook still apply. You must also refer to any other applicable provisions in the FCA’s Senior Management Arrangements, Systems and Controls manual.
So, to stay FCA-friendly you need to put systems in place for the creation, management and storage of your social media content.

This means: Having A Strong Social Media Policy

To be compliant, it’s wise to set up a social media policy in your company that sets out clearly and simply what you will do, how you will do it and who will be calling the shots.

This policy should include the following:

  • A list of the websites and platforms you do, and don’t, want to use for marketing purposes
  • A list of the people within your company authorised to sign-off social media content, who the FCA says must be of ‘appropriate competence and seniority within an organisation’. You must also have clear guidance on what sign-off entails
  • Guidance on how often you will post social content, on which topics and for what purpose
  • Instructions on how your social media work will be supervised and the penalties for sharing non-compliant content
  • A list of the security measures in place – passwords etc – to protect your social media accounts from unauthorised access
  • An outline of the training – both initial and ongoing – that takes place for staff using social media on behalf of your firm. The training itself must show your staff how to conduct themselves online, how to deal with third-party content – liking, retweeting etc – and what they can and can’t post on personal accounts

Keeping Careful Records:

Do not think you don’t have to keep full records just because it’s social media. If it’s promotional – whether it’s a whole website, a blog or a single tweet – it must be properly recorded and stored. These must not just be kept on the social media websites you use – you need to back up.
Obviously that’s a big task where social media is concerned, so it’s important to put an automated system in place that does the following for you:

  • Works across all the platforms you use and adds new ones when necessary
  • Ensures everything you put out is properly archived, so that it can be presented for inspection, in its original format, if necessary
  • Demonstrates when a post was first written, which member of compliance team reviewed and approved it and how it was commented on or changed

In summary, it is vital to make sure your social media output is constantly monitored and checked and that anything and everything, no matter how old, is recorded and stored.

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