Category Archives: Social Interactive Media (SIM)

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 47,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 11 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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Conservative Credibility Account is Bankrupt

To be relevant you have to be credible and conservatives have spent all their credibility:

Bush Logic: Trust me. I know what I'm doing

Bush Logic: Trust me. I know what I’m doing

  • George W. Bush was going to force government to be smaller by taking revenue away via massive tax cuts. Then he made government even bigger and spent our country into debt.
  • Mitt Romney changed his position on issues on a weekly basis resulting in a trust deficit that he couldn’t overcome.
  • Oil companies and wealthy business men paid millions of dollars to finance conservative candidate’s political campaigns filled with deception and lies that were exposed within hours through Social Media.
  • Republicans vowed to obstruct President Obama efforts at all costs and blocked any legislation or appointments for two years, then tried to blame Democrats for not being able to ‘reach across the aisle.’
  • Republicans concept of smaller government and less regulation resulted in higher unemployment and unethical business practices that destroyed our economy.

    Conservative Investigation: Celebrate males testify about women's contraception

    Conservative Investigation: Celibate males testify about women’s contraception

  • Elected conservatives males demonstrate the absurdity of their positions on abortion and contraceptives exposing an underlying misogynistic attitude.
  • Conservative white state legislators in the South pass laws targeted at Latinos and minorities to discourage them from voting revealing a racist attitude.
  • Conservatives ironically insult minorities and Liberals as lazy, ‘takers’ who only seek handouts from the federal government while they seek to live in the United States of America without paying taxes for the privilege of living and working in this country.

    Boehner Math: 7.5% = 50%

    Boehner Math: 7.5% = 50%

Now conservative House Representative John Boehner is pushing the deception that a tax hike on the wealthiest 2% will impact fifty percent of small businesses. The fact is that a tax hike on those who have over $200,000 of personal income ($250,000 for married filing jointly) will affect only 7.5% of small business owners.

What is shocking is that the small percentage of wealthy small business owners pay themselves $200,000 or more out of their business account for fifty percent of all small business revenue. Note that the money is going into their pocket, not reinvested into the business, nor used for hiring more people, but into their personal account.  Boehner is trying to protect the interests of the greediest of small business people.

92.5 percent of small business owners will not be impacted by this tax hike, but Boehner continues to try to deceive America into the belief that he is protecting small business owners.

The Republicans have exhausted their credibility and still they continue to try to deceive rather than serve America. It’s hard to understand conservatives pursuit of deception as a political tool. If the last election demonstrated anything it was that the majority of America could not be bought or deceived. Social media quickly exposes lies and deceptions and yet Republicans continue to behave as if they live in an Orwellian 1984, and people will believe whatever they want them to believe.

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Filed under Business, Communication, Ethics, Government, Honor, Internet, Opinion, Politics, Public Relations, Respect, Social Interactive Media (SIM), Social Media Relations, Taxes

The Petraeus Lesson: Use Your REAL Name

David Petraeus knows about public image, but he believed an alias online was not public

Men my age have been taught the we should have two personalities. There is the ‘professional’ persona that we wear in our public/business life, then there’s the ‘real’ personality that we only show when we are off the stage. That worked when there was a clear division between public and private life. For most of my life I knew that the person I knew at work was not the same as the person who was in the backyard with a beer in his hand.

A baseball cap and polo shirt don’t mask the person, why would an email alias?

The Internet changed all that, but somehow older men didn’t get the memo. When we found out we could create an email account like ‘secretagent007′, ‘mysteryman’, ‘mrinvisible’, etc., we really believed we could say anything we want, do anything we wanted without anyone knowing who we really were. I admit, it is a seductive concept that our professional/public persona could remain unknown online, but the fact is that anything we say or do online is recorded in history and will always be attached to us. 

The Petraeus Lesson is simply this: USE YOUR REAL NAME EVERY TIME  EVERYWHERE. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked in that YOU are smarter than every one of the 7,079,446,910 people on Earth. Never, ever, ever log on, create an email, or register for a social media site using a false name. If you have an email that doesn’t use your real name then get rid of it and get another one. This is 2012, and you need to know that what you say and do online is public. Period.

I know we older, white males were raised to believe in two personas, but it is a myth that we need to get over. It’s not a privacy issue, it’s a ‘am-I-smart-or-am-I-stupid’ issue.

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PR & SM Nightmare: Komen Foundation Race To A Self-Inflicted Kill

Founder & CEO Nancy Brinker leading a PR disaster

It is a public relations worst case scenario.

The decision-makers in an organization make a bad decision and then after it becomes public, the organization desperately seeks to ignore the obvious. Unfortunately, in a Social Media world, making a bad decision is tragic enough, but to try and deny the obvious is fatal. Such is the fate for the Susan G. Komen Race to the Cure foundation.

When a for-profit angers their customers they may see a downturn in sales, but often the customer often has some dependency on the product or service, so they may be willing to eventually forgive and forget.

Non-profit organizations are different. Non-profits depend on public goodwill and in the case of the Susan G. Komen foundation, they are heavily dependent on the active involvement of volunteers and donors of all political and religious views for their Race For the Cure® runs. While the Komen foundation’s purpose is noble, there are many organizations working on behalf of cancer victims and raising awareness of cancer issues. The Komen foundation has no lock on those people who have supported them in the past and continued goodwill is necessary for their continued survival.

A View To A Kill
The Komen foundation had been haunted by religious and conservative political groups once it was learned that grants by the foundation had gone to Planned Parenthood. These grants were specifically for women’s breast health issues, but the conservative groups kept pressure on the foundation to stop all funding of Planned Parenthood.

Karen Handel and Sarah Palin at campaign event

Enter Karen Handel, a rabid anti-choice advocate. Handel unsuccessfully ran for Governor of Georgia in 2010, on an anti-choice/defund Planned Parenthood platform. Her campaign was endorsed by Sarah Palin and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. Handel narrowly lost in a primary run-off election. In April 2011, The Komen foundation hired Handel as Vice President in charge of public policy. The choice of Handel in this position was a clear message the Planned Parenthood funding would be in jeopardy and the first step in the PR nightmare to come.

In December 2011, the Komen Board of Directors created a procedural rule that would allow the organization to defund Planned Parenthood. The reaction within the organizations was immediate. According to an article by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, Mollie Williams, the senior public health director quit in protest. At least two sources in Goldberg’s article indicate that the procedural rule was invented to allow the Komen foundation to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.

After the decision became public the reaction throughout Social Media was quick and massive. People began announcing their condemnation of the decision and that they would no longer support the Komen foundation and the Race For the Cure.

A Possible PR Save?
Once the scope of the reaction became obvious, the Komen foundation might have had a public relations opportunity to save the organization by voting to reverse their decision and immediately firing Karen Handel and any others responsible for putting the organization in a public image blood bath. That move would have instantly made them the target of conservative political and religious groups, but the organization had already experienced that pressure. A reversal would have helped to restore their public image and bought back some goodwill.

 The one thing they could not do was spin the decision to try and make it look palatable to the non-Conservative public.

The Nail In The Coffin
Rather than facing up to the bad decision the Komen foundation, led by CEO and Founder Nancy G. Brinker, instead began aggressively spinning the decision and denying the conservative religious and political motivations. Choosing to stand by the decision has now compounded the PR disaster assuring a slow and dishonorable death for the Komen foundation. Blogs are discussing the organization’s budget and how much money is retained for administrative costs. Certainly they might gain some short-term financial support from well-financed Conservative donors; however, they will not be able to replace the legions of volunteers who made The Race to the Cure possible in communities throughout the country.

It is apparent that the Susan G. Komen foundation leadership has little understanding of the impact of Social Media on public relations. They have acted as if they were operating in 20th Century media environment where a bluff could be held through a news cycle and the voice of the organization could drown out the facts of a situation. Now Nancy G. Brinker has spent all her credibility and has become the face of the scandal. Unfortunately, there is no turning back now. The Race For the Cure has made themselves political by making this decision, and by trying to spin the story they have made a serious wound a fatal one.

UPDATE:

At approximately 8:30 AM PST on Friday, February 3, 2012, CNN said the Komen Foundation was reversing its decision and would fund Planned Parenthood.

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Filed under Branding, Communication, Ethics, Honor, Information Technology, Internet, Management Practices, Politics, Public Relations, Religion, Social Interactive Media (SIM), Social Media Relations, Women

4 Reasons Why Foursquare May Be Bad 4 Your Business

Consider the Consequences Before Posting These

Foursquare is supposed to be a fun Social Media tool that can help a business to identify their most loyal customers and promote patronage. By ‘checking in’ using their smartphone with a GPS function, a Foursquare user let’s the business and the user’s friends know that they are there. If a user checks in at a business more often than everyone else he/she can become the ‘Mayor.’ That sounds like a great idea, but there is a dark side that could lead to Foursquare chasing customers away from a business. Here are four reasons why you may want to discourage Foursquare from being a part of your enterprise, especially if you have significant customer traffic.

Negative Comments
Foursquare encourages users to give ‘tips’ to other Foursquare users. I often see negative comments as a tip. At one Starbucks I noticed that the tip that shows up when I check-in states, “Don’t come here if you’re in a hurry” That tip was left on May 6, 2011. Negative comments will haunt your business for months. Not a great first impression for a first time customer.

Competition Between Your Customers
Foursquare pushes your customers into a competition for the prize of being the Mayor. Not all Foursquare users are rabid about becoming Mayor; however, competing customers can be good or bad for your business. Under normal circumstances the competition can lead to more customer visits by those who are trying to rack up more check-ins; however, if becoming Mayor is important to a user, too much Foursquare competition could make a regular customer become frustrated. There will only be one Mayor and if that user has a lock on the Mayorship, then other users may decide to go to a competing business or store where they have a better opportunity to become Mayor. 

Not All Check-ins Equal
In addition to competition, there is an issue with fairness of the Mayor selection. On the face of it the Mayor should be the customer with the most check-in days, but that is not exactly the way it works. I have 49 check-ins in the last 60 days at my favorite Starbucks but the user who is the Mayor only has 45 Check-ins. Why is that user the Mayor? Apparently some of my check-ins don’t count even though I have 32 days in a row of check-ins at this Starbucks and the Mayor was out of town for a week during that time. I am consistently listed as 3 days away from being Mayor. I contacted Foursquare for an explanation and other than an auto-reply that they received my request, there has been no response.

Rewarding Customer Loyalty Not The Primary Goal
Foursquare would seem to be a great method for identifying and rewarding your most loyal customers; however, Foursquare is, in large part, a game and rewards those who are the most competitive, not the most loyal. While most employees can quickly recognize their loyal customers, they may not be able to recognize who the Foursquare Mayor is for their business. This is especially true of businesses with a high volume of customers and/or with a drive-thru window. The Mayor may be the person who simply plays the game and has little interest in supporting your business. If your business offers a special to the Mayor or attempts to recognize Foursquare users in some way, it could be insulting to loyal customers who feel they have neglected for their support of your business.

While Social Media tools like Foursquare can be useful in a business environment, it is important to consider the limitations and risks of employing them into your customer service plan.

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New Religion For Business: Believing in the ‘L’ Word

Paul Kiser

For a hundred years the Church of the Big Sell has preached to enterprise decision-makers that they will give a voice to their company…for a price. Media chieftains told the world of business that the customer is a commodity that can be manipulated and controlled with the right ad campaign, the right slogan, the right spokesperson, or the right look. Then came Social Media.

Social Media has put a lot of business traditionalists in a tailspin. It turns out that the customer is not a commodity and they hate it when they are treated like one (e.g.; Netflix, United Airlines, Bank of America, etc.) Customers  are people and they have feelings, wants, likes, and dislikes.

Facebook and Twitter gave the people fire and they liked it. Now the customer has a voice and they use it. They talk. They converse. They express. They judge. Not only do they have a voice, they now have the power to turn off advertising…and they do.

The Church of the Big Sell is burning and the voice they were supposed to give to business is wasted on ads in newspapers and magazines that nobody reads, radio and television commercials that nobody listens to or watches, and yellow pages books that go from the front doorstep to the recycling bin…unused. Social Media took away the microphone of enterprise because people are tired of being preached to by the Church of the Big Sell.

Business is realizing that customer interaction has changed. Enterprise in a Social Media world is not about talking, but about listening. Listening is the alpha and omega of the Social Media world. Almost everything a business needs to know is there, if they listen. A new church is being built on the ashes of the old and the religion is based on the ‘L’ word.

Listening is not as easy as it sounds (pun intended.) Social Media is noisy. Too many voices, too many issues. A restaurant owner does not need to know that Emily had a great date last night…unless Emily’s date was at his restaurant. Then he might want to know that Emily’s date was great despite her eating experience, where the food was cold, the parking a pain, and the service rude. The restaurant owner might also want to know that nine of Emily’s friends responded to her Tweet by agreeing that his restaurant sucks and they will never eat there again.

Rob Bailey - Head of US Operations and new CEO of DataSift

Tools of Listening in the New Church of Social Meda
Paring down the noise of Social Media is a major challenge for a business and the new religion has new tools. “The amount of Social Media that people are producing is doubling every year…,” explained Rob Bailey, who is the head of United States Operations for DataSift, a Social Media filtering platform for business that was launched last week. Bailey said that there are three steps in refining raw Social Media into relevant information for any enterprise.

The first step is to refine the data down to what is being posted about an organization, subject, or topic. That refinement may require multiple filters to distill out undesired spam, retweets, and other noise. The second step is to analyze the results based on factors such as age, gender, geographic location, and sentiment. The final step is to have a visual tool that reports the results simply and accurately for interpretation by the decision-maker in the company.

Nick Halstead - Past CEO and now Chief Technology Officer

DataSift had 8,000 users in the alpha test of its Social Media monitoring platform and found that the interest in this technology spanned a wide variety of industries. CEO Nick Halstead said that they had, “… government agencies to pharmaceuticals, a lot in finance, a lot in retail…and quite a few start-ups…” interested in DataSift’s technology to monitor issues of concern to their business and organizational operations. Another industry that wants to be able the monitor the Social Media are News Outlets that are trying to compete with Twitter and Facebook in providing events in real-time. Bailey said, “Twitter is an incredible vehicle…” for finding out what is going on in the world.

Public Relations and Social Media firms are also using tools to filter out the Social Media noise for companies who would rather hire an outside service for their Social Media presence rather than doing it in-house. In addition to listening to the Social Media these agencies help a business identify and correct their public image by handling public image issues and concerns for the organization.

View of data stream screen

The tools of the new platform allow the user to search multiple Social Media formats and have access to the full Twitter worldwide database in real-time. Beyond listening to what is being said about a company’s public image, they can now test market products or services and use Social Media to determine the reaction. The platform also has an interesting application in politics by allowing campaigns to determine sentiments on key issues by geographic region before a candidate campaigns in that area.

Improved customer response is probably the most obvious benefit to listening to Social Media, as a business can now pick up any post written about their company, product, or service and appropriately respond in minutes with a thank you for positive comments and a resolution or apology for negative experiences.

There is no turning back. Social Media demands that enterprise be great listeners and now they have no excuse.

USA PDT [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype: 775.624.5679]

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5 Reasons Why Ignoring Negative Social Media is a Career Ender for a VP of Customer Service

USA PDT [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype: 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the impact of Social Media on the perceived public image of a business, many Customer Service (CS) and Public Relations (PR) executives still handle negative Social Media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, etc.) by ignoring the bad publicity. One can only marvel at the rationale of an executive team in the 21st century, which believes that avoidance behavior of PR problems in the Social Media environment is the best policy.

I would suggest that there are four reasons for this philosophy, which are as follows:

Bad Social Media PR is Bad for Business

  • An outmoded understanding and/or denial of Social Media and its long-term impact on the company’s public image.
  • A belief that negative statements in the Social Media have no cumulative effect and that they will disappear over time.
  • An arrogance by the executives of a corporation that they control their public image by what they say and do and by the money they spend on advertising, not by what individuals outside the company say about them.
  • A belief that by giving attention to someone with a complaint about their company will cause more problems and possibly force the company to admit to their stupidity.
There are five reasons why ignoring negative Social Media is a bad idea and why the CS and PR executives who follow this policy have an expiration date on their careers:
  1. A negative Social Media comment is forever. It doesn’t fade and it doesn’t go away.
  2. A negative blog can and will be found by any Google search of your company. Why would a CS or PR executive let people who search for their company be exposed to everything said by the people who hate you?
  3. Bad comments on Social Media are cumulative. When someone is mad at your company they will search to find other people who feel the same way, and then you have a movement of people who are united against your company.
  4. Waiting to address bad publicity only makes a company look like they are hiding something when they finally do publicly address the issue, which is a lose, lose, loser in damage control.
  5. Once a company wakes up and realizes that ignoring bad PR is a stupid idea, how long will the implementor of that policy have before the company seeks someone who is smarter about handling negative Social Media?

A negative Social Media comment about a company is an opportunity. Everyone knows that major corporations are monitoring the Social Media, so when someone makes a negative comment they know that someone in the company is reading it. A company that contacts the author of the complaint to show concern will, at the very least, prove that the company appreciates its customers. By, 1) addressing the reason for the complaint and, 2) making some tangible effort to offer a reward to the person for bringing the issue to the company’s attention, the complainer will likely become a positive voice for the company’s public image and may even delete the negative blog or comment.

Companies, and their executives, who fail to address negative Social Media comments are risking their future. Netflix and United Airlines are just two examples of corporations that have done too little too late to address public image issues in the Social Media and they are paying the price. How many companies have to become a joke to their customers, investors, and the public before they realize the mistake they are making by ignoring Social Media?

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Social Media ‘Evolution’ At Nation’s Investment Firms

USA PDT [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype: 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Can your investment advisor write a blog about his or her job? Can they Tweet that they just read a great article on oil futures and add a hyperlink? Can they post that they had a big day in the market? Prior to January 2010, the answer was no…not unless they wanted to risk her or his job.

Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rules didn’t specifically prohibit business-related Social Media participation, but SEC regulations on advertising and communications have been presumed to extend to online engagement and in a vacuum of good guidance, most major firms took the position of forbidding their representatives from participating in Social Media formats. This removed the fundamental aspect of Social Media that benefits commerce on the Internet, the one-on-one connection.

In January 2010, FINRA issued Regulatory Notice 10-06, which gave investment firms parameters for allowing their representatives to use Social Media within the bounds of SEC and FINRA regulations. The reaction was not instantaneous because firms had to solve the issue of how to supervise agent’s online communication. Protocols had to be established, software had to be adapted and installed, and training of agents had to be implemented; however, there has been a rapid Social Media ‘evolution’ in investment advising during the past 12 months.

For some firms, a deliberate, but ‘conservative approach’ to implementing Social Media engagement is being employed. One industry representative said, “…we had to help agents know what they can talk about and what they can’t talk about.” But she added, “…I’d rather be doing this now than wait three years and try to figure it out…Social Media exists and it’s not going away.”

For New York Life the direction was made very clear according to Ken Hittel, Vice President, Corporate Internet, who said, ” Our CEO, (Ted Mathas) made it very clear that agent participation (in Social Media) is a requirement.” New York Life uses a software program to meet SEC and FINRA regulations of supervising agent’s Internet interactions. Hittel said that the implementation of the program, “…went smoothly and was completed in a couple of months.”

The SEC regulations on advertising and adviser/investor communications are not new and apply to all methods of interactions, including those performed via the Internet. A FINRA podcast outlines five issues that apply to all forms of investment communications. All statements made by an agent must:

  • not be exaggerated or misleading and all material facts must be disclosed
  • clearly identified the firm and agent
  • not include or imply any forward-looking statements
  • provide the customer/investor a sound basis to evaluate the services or market
  • file any statements regarding mutual funds, variable products, and/or exchange traded funds within 10 days of being published

Each investment firm is expected to train their agents on how to comply with SEC and FINRA requirements. Hittel said that the New York Life agent training program is “..not just compliance.” He pointed out that Social Media creates 12,000 “Brand Ambassadors” for the company and they based their Social Media training on a “best practices” approach. Hittel said that there is a saying at New York Life, “…that you can do anything, not everything,” which is reflected in New York Life’s approach to Social Media engagement. The firm has established a progressive program for Social Media participation by their agents…within the scope of SEC and FINRA regulations.

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FINRA Clearing a Path for Investment Firms to Engage in Social Media

USA PDT [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype: 775.624.5679]

A version of this article first published as
Investment Firms Allowed to Use Social Media Under SEC/FINRA Rules
on Technorati.com

Paul Kiser

Eighteen months ago a game launching bird heads at pig heads didn’t exist.

Eighteen months ago Tony Hayward was a star as CEO of BP.

Eighteen months ago most people thought Charlie Sheen was an actor.

Eighteen months ago most investment firms thought that financial advisors were prohibited from using Social Media in business.

Now Angry Birds is near world domination, now Tony Hayward is a footnote in public relations infamy, now we know Charlie Sheen is Charlie Harper…the possessed version of him, and now Social Media is not taboo in the investment business.

…in the world of investing, the Social Media ‘evolution’ has had to meet the compliance issues of the regulatory agencies meant to protect the investor from unethical advisors…

The world is evolving faster than most people can absorb, so it’s not surprising that some industries are adapting to new technologies faster than others, but in the world of investing, the Social Media ‘evolution’ has had to meet the compliance issues of the regulatory agencies meant to protect the investor from unethical advisors.

Social Media tools like blogs and Internet-based social networking tools have opened up a new environment for business by allowing a rapid-response connection between the customer and the seller of a product or service. In most Internet commerce it is a caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) situation, where the buyer must pursue legal remedies for a broken contract or unethical representation of a product or service after the fact. In investment advising the company or firm is expected to protect the buyer before, during, and after the fact, which requires the firm to intercede and supervise interactions that involve investment advice. That has led many firms to prohibit all Social Media involvement by its representatives.

However, seventeen months ago the largest independent financial regulator stepped forward with a road map for investment firms on how Social Media could be used by their representatives while meeting the need to protect the investor.

…the regulations only effect business communications that involve investment advising and promotion. Personal blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Media tools are not a concern for the regulators…

Joseph Price, Senior Vice President of Advertising Regulation/Corporate Financing at FINRA (Financial Industry Financial Authority) discussed the issues with investment firms and Social Media with me earlier today. Price is one of the authors of Regulatory Notice 10-06 titled Social Media Web Sites – Guidance on Blogs and Social Networking Web Sites that was published in January 2010. Price said that using Social Media, “..depends on the firm’s business model,” and that it, “..has to make sense for the firm.” He confirmed that the regulations only effect business communications that involve investment advising and promotion. Personal blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Media tools are not a concern for the regulators even though individual firms may have policies prohibiting personal on-line interactions.

Price said that a common question he hears from firms is from those who prohibit all Social Media involvement by their representatives. Their concern is whether a firm is meeting the regulatory requirements when they have no Social Media supervisory functions in place because they have prohibited the activity.

Another question that FINRA has had to deal with involves deleting inappropriate user comments in chat rooms and on blogs. Price asked, “..by selective deletion, has the firm adopted the posts they haven’t deleted?” His suggestion to firms is that they have a policy in place that outlines the approval/deletion of comments. As long as a firm follows the policy and doesn’t prejudice the comments to favor the firm and its products, the company will likely not be considered to have approved and adopted the user comment.

Regarding investment business blogs, Price explained that they “require prior approval” by a firm before they are published because they fall into the category of a static communication that includes any form of advertising.

The Regulatory Notice 10-06 answers ten questions for firms about guidelines for using Social Media in the industry of investment advising.  FINRA has followed up that document with webinars, podcasts, and seminars to assist their member firms in the ongoing process of adapting regulatory requirements to Social Media tools available to the rest of the business world.

Firms now the option of fully engaging in Social Media, which is rapidly becoming less an option and more a matter of survival.

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Filed under Business, Customer Relations, Ethics, Government Regulation, Management Practices, Public Relations, Social Interactive Media (SIM), Social Media Relations

Does FINRA Prohibit Social Media Activity for Investment/Financial Firms?

USA PDT [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype: 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser

Last year I managed to offend some investment and financial professionals when I said that their industry would have to engage in Social Media, including blogs, if they were going to stay competitive. They told me that their firms and industry regulations prohibited them from using Social Media tools in their business practices. They also said that some firms that prohibited personal involvement in Social Media. The reaction during and after the meeting was one of a strong denial of the usefulness of Social Media in their industry mixed with a ‘kill-the-messenger’ attitude. It was a typical response by business people who have been blindsided by Social Media.

…Professionals that rely on personal contact and personal relationships are finding that effective use of Social Media is key to maintaining and growing their business.

It is hard to start a dialogue with business professionals on how to use Internet tools such as blogging, Facebook and Twitter when the attitude is that Social Media are an encompassing evil that must be avoided, or at the very least, ignored. The problem, and opportunity, is that business professionals who can use Social Media to engage with others will have an advantage over those who are mystified, or more typically, scared by the power of Social Media. Professionals that rely on personal contact and personal relationships are finding that effective use of Social Media is key to maintaining and growing their business.

The fact is that since that meeting many investment related firms have changed their positions by at least 90° and some have done a 180° shift in their attitude about Social Media in business. That is not surprising considering that their future is at stake; however, investment firms do have strict guidelines on advertising and investment advisement, so using Social Media is not the ‘anything goes’ environment for which most of us are accustomed.

Both the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)[1] are charged with protecting investors by establishing rules to govern investment-related activities. Among those rules are requirements for firms on educating, monitoring, supervising, and document the activities of brokers representing their company. In January 2010, FINRA issued Regulatory Notice 10-06 titled Social Media Web Sites – Guidance on Blogs and Social Networking Web Sites. This notice did not prohibit firms from engaging in Social Media activity, but rather offered common-sense guidelines for investment firms on how Social Media tools could be used to meet FINRA and SEC requirements.

(End of Part I)

(Note: Part II will be posted by 5 PM PDT, Monday, May 23rd)

[1] FINRA is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA’s mission is to protect America’s investors by making sure the securities industry operates fairly and honestly. All told, FINRA oversees nearly 4,550 brokerage firms, about 163,500 branch offices and approximately 631,110 registered securities representatives. (From About FINRA at www.finra.org.)

(This article is advisory in nature and the author does not represent the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA,) the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), nor any federal or state regulatory authority. The opinion expressed should not be considered as a legal or official position regarding the use of Social Media tools in industry practices.  The author has sought out publicly available relevant documents and information as the basis for the opinions expressed; however, final authority on the issues discussed in this article rests with the appropriate government, regulatory, and/or company division that oversees the area of concern.)

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