Social Media Compliance For Financial Advisors

The American College of Financial Services
July 27, 2017

Financial advisors have embraced social media networking wholeheartedly, and it’s clearly helping advisors expand their practices. In a 2013 study, only 49 percent of advisors said they gained new clients due to social media activities, but by 2016, 80 percent said social media activities were directly responsible for the acquisition of new clients.  

Social media use among advisors is also growing in specific platforms. In a2015 study, only 44 percent of advisors reported using Facebook to reach clients. By 2016, the number increased to 56 percent. The same study showed Twitter use for advisors at 45 percent in 2015. In 2016, Twitter use climbed to 54 percent.

Now that social media has become an accepted form of communication, there’s no turning back the clock. However, in a profession as tightly regulated as financial services, it’s vitally important to use social media responsibly. Here are several tips to help advisors use social media compliantly.  

Know the rules.

Advisors should know what can and cannot be said when using social media. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) regulates advisor communications to ensure compliance. Visit the FINRA website for guidelines for responsible use of digital communications. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards also offers a free guide with detailed instructions for integrating social media into advisor communications correctly.

Follow your company’s policy.

A full 81 percent of advisors work for companies with social media policies designed to protect advisors and ensure compliance. Some companies even offer training programs and workshops on social media use for advisors. Compliance departments can provide answers to questions about specific aspects of social media use in a specific company.

Use approved content.

Some companies have content available for advisors to use for safe posting. These content libraries contain preapproved articles, infographics, visual images, and video appropriate for sharing online. When sharing articles from outside sources, make sure to thoroughly review the article and its links before posting. Only pass along content that comes from high quality, reputable sources and has been fully reviewed – never skip this step.

Review before posting.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and immediacy of Facebook or Twitter and find yourself engaging in discussions online. Some companies forbid advisors to comment on posts, but others allow it. Review what your firm deems acceptable and remember – the rules that govern in-person communications are also enforced online so err on the side of caution.

Use compliant visuals.

Social media posts without images perform much more poorly than posts with images. In fact, a Hubspot survey reported tweets with images received 150 percent more retweets than those without them. But examine all images carefully before posting to ensure they are suitable for distribution and have nothing in them that could be judged offensive.

Social media is helping advisors to educate clients, share updates, and remain visible in the community. Clients – particularly younger clients – also expect advisors to be tech savvy and have an active social media presence. Nevertheless, it’s crucial for advisors to comply with rules and regulations. Using the suggestions above will help advisors reap the business benefits of social media while being fully compliant.

Learn why it’s important for financial advisors to connect with clients using social media and how to maintain visibility when information is everywhere. Read the white paper “The Advisor of the Future: How to Stay Relevant in the Digital Age,” for valuable insights into changing consumer expectations and behavior in a digital world.