Categorizing Content

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

Categorizing Content

FINRA has categorized “content” within the context of this industry’s use of social media as “static” (the content remains posted until changed by the firm or individual) and “nonstatic” (interactive). Static material—such as agent profiles, wall information, and all initial postings on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn—would be deemed advertisements and would require preapproval.

Real-time interactions between agents and customers, as well as interactions between recruiters and agents, would be considered nonstatic content. These exchanges would not require preapproval, but the company must have procedures to oversee and retain them.

“FINRA realizes that prior approval in interactive situations is unrealistic,” Shea says. “If customers have a question on a social media site, you can’t tell them, ‘I’ll have an answer for you after my compliance department reviews it.’ But you still need to have all correspondence available for review after the fact. So that’s where the need to capture, store and archive comes in.”

Still, two common tools of the social media universe are currently “out” for the foreseeable future at New York Life: Retweets and the Facebook “like” button.

“We’ve blocked the ability [for agents] to ‘like’ something,” Shea says. “Right out of the gate, we need to be conservative and cautious about these things. It’s harder, after all, to shut something down once it’s already out there, rather than adding it on after you’ve determined that it’s OK.

“For now, we’re taking the position that, if an agent presses the ‘like’ button, it’s essentially an endorsement. Under FINRA guidance, an endorsement is the same as an advertisement. That’s going to be a difficult thing for us to oversee and self-regulate. It’s the same with retweeting something that someone else has said on Twitter. It’s an endorsement of that person’s statement.”

Currently, agents who are outside of the pilot program can still create a work-related Facebook or LinkedIn profile, but they can’t conduct exchanges with customers on their pages. And Twitter is out.

New York Life is working toward allowing all its agents to use social media sites. For now, all measurements of the initiative’s success are purely anecdotal. But those results, so far, are very encouraging.

“We’re getting the clear message from agents and recruiters who are part of the piloting process that these social network sites are highly effective business tools,” Shea concludes. “Recruiters say they are getting access to, and signing on, agents they would never connect with otherwise. Agents are definitely increasing both sales and their customer base thanks to the social media sites.

“This is the way the public expects you to do business these days.”

Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.

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