Rolling Out an Initiative

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 2010-12-09 Print this article Print

Social media makes its mark at a venerable insurance company, which went from “no” to “go” while dealing with compliance challenges along the way. See also: Rosetta Stone Friends Facebook

Rolling Out an Initiative

All of that is changing. Using a middleware software solution package from Socialware, New York Life is now rolling out a social networking initiative for agents, recruiters and other employees. An initial pilot is under way with 750 agents nationwide.

The new IT capabilities will automate and manage social network policies and usage for New York Life’s more than 11,000 agents and field managers in the United States, creating a compliant and secure social networking experience. The solution enables social data to be captured, indexed and archived to conform to the company’s social media policy, and it allows for compliance with the SEC and FINRA regulations. The company can now “set its own rules” for official use of these sites, defining how agents, financial representatives and other employees can access an account, archive posts, interact with users and conduct other activities.

New York Life can now scan Facebook comments, tweets and other exchanges to comply with company policy and regulations. Via archiving functions, it can easily analyze companywide social networking usage from an enterprise perspective; through discovery applications, it can locate needed information throughout this social archive. The solution package allows the content to be authenticated and filtered—or blocked if necessary.

With all the focus on compliance, you’d think the respective company social media sites would be rather, well, stuffy. But that’s far from the case. The posts are lively and inviting. Instead of employing “corporate-speak,” exchanges are conversational. On the recent anniversary of Sept. 11, for example, employees shared their own often-poignant memories of their experiences in New York City that day.

Research demonstrates that New York Life is taking initiatives with its social media policies that other organizations in its industry aren’t necessarily taking: More than 60 percent of financial advisers use social networks for business purposes, spending an average of 22 minutes a week on social media activity, according to a survey that Socialware commissioned.

Nearly 50 percent of survey participants say they’ve identified new referrals thanks to these sites. But 32 percent say they don’t have a policy in place to provide guidelines for this kind of activity. In companies that do have a social media policy, only 57 percent of employees know it exists. And nearly four out of 10 respondents who use social media for business are doing so in direct violation of their companies’ policies, according to the survey.

FINRA has ruled that all social media content must be archived and audited, but 66 percent of financial advisers say they have no archiving process in place, Socialware reports. And those that do have an archiving process are often undertaking the task with manual tools.

For New York Life, manual tools wouldn’t work because of the sheer volume of content. And if a status update, tweet, or post to a site or discussion board can be easily viewed by 25 customers or more, FINRA classifies it as sales literature. (This number has already been surpassed, as more than 3,970 users have “liked” the company’s Facebook page at press time.) If the content is considered advertising, it must be reviewed and evaluated by staff. And the definition of what constitutes advertising on a social network site can be very broad.

“Anything that discusses a product or service could be considered advertising,” Shea says. “Way, way more content falls under this definition than you’d think. There are clear standards as to what you can say here and what you can’t.”

Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.

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