An Open Letter to Smarsh Customers from Actiance

By actiance,   April 8, 2014

Actiance ArrowAn Open Letter to Smarsh Customers:

Actiance wants to make you aware of a recent change in its relationship with Smarsh, and how Actiance can help you improve how you archive social media, email, and all your other critical business communications.

Smarsh has been using Actiance Socialite to export social media to its archive since 2011. If you are a Smarsh social media archiving customer, Socialite has helped you meet archiving requirements for compliance, litigation preparedness, and corporate governance.

After April 30, 2014, Smarsh will no longer be using Socialite, making now an ideal time to evaluate how Actiance can continue to meet your needs. Actiance can help you reduce the time and cost required to archive and discover social media and other communications with its new cloud archiving solution, Alcatraz.

Unlike other archives, Alcatraz allows you to:

  • Archive and discover content with context, including edits and deletes
  • Have a single repository for your critical business communications, including email
  • Map each user’s social media accounts to their corporate directory identity
  • Review content as a full transcript, including snapshots of specific points in time

Through July 31, 2014, you can get social media archiving from Actiance for $5 per month, per user. With this solution, you’ll have an archive built not only for your social media and email archiving needs, but for all the networks your employees use to communicate.

With over 12 years’ experience providing comprehensive, scalable compliance solutions, Actiance understands the unique needs of every business, especially those in regulated industries like financial services. Actiance solutions are used by all 10 top American, all 10 top Canadian, and 8 of the 10 top European banks.

For more information about Socialite and Alcatraz, or to arrange a demonstration, please contact or visit

Thank you,
Actiance, Inc.

Belbey Blogs: 13 Life Lessons From An Extraordinary Woman, Jane Sherburne, Bank of New York Mellon #SIFMA

By Joanna Belbey,   April 4, 2014

callout-sherburneToday’s blog is by Joanna Belbey, Social Media and Compliance Specialist, Actiance. Follow Joanna @Belbey or connect with her on LinkedIn. (Photo credit: BNY Mellon website.)

One Women’s Guide to Long Term Career Success.

The SIFMA Compliance and Legal Annual Seminar held March 30-April 2 in Orlando, was packed with relevant and timely educational sessions on topics such as Cybersecurity, SEC priorities, employment law, social media and Anti-Money Laundering updates. Look for my blog on these soon….

However, the highpoint of the event for me, was the first annual SIFMA Women’s Luncheon where Jane Sherburne, Senior Executive Vice President General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Bank of New York Mellon, shared 13 life lessons gleaned from her prestigious career.

Per the BNY Mellon website, prior to her current role, Sherburne was general counsel for Wachovia Corporation and general counsel for Citigroup’s Global Consumer Group, a partner at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C. and special counsel to President Bill Clinton before shifting the focus of her practice to financial services. Sherburne received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Minnesota, and earned her J.D. from Georgetown University (a fellow Hoya, Hoya Saxa!)

Over lunch, Sherburne shared anecdotes of how she navigated a high-profile career while raising three children. Her stories ranged from assumptions that she wouldn’t take a partner-track assignment because she “had too many babies”. Or after making partner, being told that she looked like a “cocktail waitress” while wearing a carefully selected evening dress to a black tie event. And while working for the Clintons at the “all day and all night house”, being scolded by a teacher that “there is nothing wrong with this child that more time with his mother won’t fix”. Ouch! As Mary Joe White of the SEC noted at another session, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

The theme? She took repeated hits and kept moving. Here’s what she learned along the way:

  1. Be your own master. Don’t attach yourself to someone else’s career decisions.
  2. Be attentive to opportunities and be willing to sacrifice to seize them.
  3. View yourself as a problem solver. Learn about the problem and figure out how to solve it.
  4. Cultivate mentor relationships over time. Protect and support your sponsor, whatever it takes.
  5. While managing work-life balance while in high pressure environments, assert personal needs only after you prove yourself and provide alternative plans.
  6. Do not tolerate bullies. Stand up for yourself and you will earn more respect. And in her case, a well-placed expletive, worked wonders.
  7. Ask for what you want. You don’t ask, you don’t get.
  8. Take the long view on your kids’ well-being and develop and rely on communities to help you.
  9. Strongly intelligent people sometimes need tough minded advisors who won’t pull punches.
  10. When in a crisis, find your Zen spot and lead from there. If you are calm, your team will stay calm and management will trust that you will get the crisis under control.
  11. Embrace change and trust that your strength will emerge.
  12. When negotiating employment contracts, get what the men get.
  13. Be lucky who you wind up in the foxhole with.

Touching, authentic, inspiring, Sherburne challenged us to look back at our own life lessons. To figure out how to use them. And most important, to give back.

What are your life lessons?





Freedom of Information Gets Social

By Sarah Carter,   March 30, 2014

Today’s blog post is by Sarah Carter, Social Nomad for #TeamActiance. Follow her and her adventures on the road @SarahActiance

At the end of February, the UK Information Commissioners Office (ICO) issued new guidelines regarding the application of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and requests for public authorities around how they can respond to freedom of information (FOI) requests made via social media.

The Freedom of Information Act
The FOIA of 2000 provides public access to information held by public authorities. It does this in two ways.

1) public authorities are obliged to publish certain information about their activities;
2) members of the public are entitled to request information from public authorities.

Recorded information includes printed documents, computer files, letters, emails, photographs, and sound or video recordings.

The Act does not give people access to their own personal data (information about themselves) such as their health records or credit reference file. If a member of the public wants to see information that a public authority holds about them, they should make a subject access request under the Data Protection Act 1998.

The New Guidelines:
In the new guidelines, there is confirmation that FOI requests that come into public bodies from sites such as Twitter and Facebook, will trigger their duty to provide information through the FOIA.

The guidance is very focused on recognising a valid FOI request – and there is a whole section, complete with examples as to what would be a valid request. The challenge being with social networks, that the identity of the individual, more so than a corporation, is often not clear.

What constitutes a valid request?
Section 8 of the FOIA deals with the validity of a request for information – requests must

1) be in writing
2) include the requesters name and an address for correspondence (which can be an email or social media address)
3) describe the information being requested

Section 8 is clear that “A request made under a pseudonym will be invalid.” – a real name must be provided. If the real name of the requester is not clear, then public bodies do not need to respond. However, authorities are reminded that they should assist individuals when this happens… “Where an authority does refuse the request on the grounds that the name is invalid, we would expect it to fulfil its duty to provide advice and assistance to those wishing to make a request by advising the requester to resubmit the request using their real name,” the guidelines continue.

Asking for information in the public domain
Anticipating that requests may come in the public domain, through a Facebook page message perhaps, or an @ Tweet – the guidelines detail that if the request has been made public, then it is reasonable that the authority will public the response publicly also. However, the guidance continues, “if the authority has any particular reason to believe that it would be inappropriate to publish the information online, then it may wish to respond via a private message to the requester’s account instead. If this facility is not available then it should obtain an alternative contact address from the requester.”

So, it’s not open season for public authorities publishing everything on social then. Because of course, it may not be possible to post the entire information source in 140 characters – ask for an email address, say the guidelines, or perhaps host the information on your own website and post a link to it from the social network.

Just Good Old Common Sense and in Plain English
All in all, these are common sense guidelines laid out in a plain English format – easy to understand, easy to read and digest, with plenty of examples. It does, however, require (IMO) that the recipient of the FOI request has an understanding of the social media site and limitations of those sites, including what is and isn’t publicly seen on those sites.

There are two areas that these guidelines raise for me though.

1) Who are you on social media?: For a request to be valid, the identity of the requester must be clear. In our social world, where we often hide behind pseudonyms, declare

very little personal information publicly – or even where requesters may not be who they say they are – it raises the question as to the validity of the identity of the requester – and I wonder if schemes like the Twitter verified ID will be required to add value in a situation like this.
2) Where information is requested and provided through social networks an accurate, valid (and ensure that it’s not tampered with) copy of that request and the response should be retained for the authority record keeping – and that’s difficult in social – especially marrying that social data to other data sources.

The ICO has delivered some good clear guidelines here that raise additional questions – of verified identity, of where that information should be shared. What are your thoughts? Would you submit a FOI request through social? And would you be happy receiving the response through social?

Belbey Blogs: Attending #SIFMA C&L Annual Seminar? Visit Actiance at booth #204.

By Joanna Belbey,   March 28, 2014

sifma app

Today’s post is by Joanna Belbey, Social Media and Compliance Specialist, for Actiance. You may follow Joanna on Twitter @belbey.

After this harsh winter, I am looking forward to heading to Florida bright and early on Sunday morning to staff the Actiance trade show booth (#204) and to attend some of the sessions of the SIFMA Compliance and Legal Society Annual Seminar. I’m actually assigned to set up the Actiance booth, so don’t laugh if you visit us and it’s upside down. There is also something about using a screw driver to set up a monitor that should be interesting….

You can always count on SIFMA for a great educational and networking experience and I’m sure this conference will be no different. If you are going, I recommend that you download the SIFMA C&L app to make it easy to navigate the sessions and makes connections with your peers.

I am particularly looking forward to hearing the keynote speakers such as Mary Jo White, Chair of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Richard Ketchum, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of FINRA, and Preet Bharara, United States Attorney Southern District of New York.

On Monday, I plan to attend the session on Commodities, Futures and Energy Issues to hear about the impact on the energy industry from Dodd Frank, CFTC and FERC from both a regulator and practitioner’s perspective (10:20 – 11:35am).  The session on Cyber Security: What You Need to Know also sounds fascinating and includes a discussion of the US & EU cybersecurity regulations, the Safety Act, and Cyber Insurance and the risks of social media (11:55 – 1:10pm). On a personal note, I have a deep interest in cybersecurity and even produced “The Threat of Cybercrime”, a 7 minute short firm. Of course, I wouldn’t miss the Women’s Luncheon (1:20pm – 2:30pm). Always enjoy connecting with the smart women in this industry.

Actiance is hosting a cocktail party right in the hotel at Primo after the main cocktail reception on Monday evening, so I am hoping you can join us.

Tuesday starts with the “Diversity & Inclusion Breakfast. And then after a bit of “booth duty”, I will be sure to attend (and take notes!) the Social Media Emerging Issues, Innovation and Ongoing Challenges session (12:05 – 1:20). Melissa Callison of Charles Schwab moderates a panel of Stephen Bard of Wells Fargo, Alexander Gavis of Fidelity, Brian Rubin of Sutherland Asbill & Brennon, Melissa MacGregor of SIFMA and Thomas Selman of FINRA.

On Wednesday I am looking forward to hearing the sessions on SEC Developments (8:30 – 9:30am) and Employment Law: High Profile Issues.

Then back to New York on a mid-day flight.  Hopefully it won’t be snowing when I get home….

Again, please stop by the Actiance booth #204 to say hello and join us for cocktails after the main reception on Monday night at Primo. And look forward to my upcoming blog about what I learn at SIFMA Compliance and Legal Society Annual Seminar.

Belbey Blogs: Are You Ready to Comply With The Sunshine Laws?

By Joanna Belbey,   March 26, 2014

sunToday’s post is by Joanna Belbey, Social Media and Compliance Specialist, for Actiance. You may follow Joanna on Twitter @belbey.

Just last week, news organizations and watchdog groups across the country celebrated “Sunshine Week”, the annual celebration of the public’s right to know what’s going on with its government.

As a result, this may be perfect time to think about how your organization will respond to an incoming request from the public for your business records.

As you may you know, the federal “Government in the Sunshine Act” was enacted in 1976 as part of a number of Freedom of Information Acts, and was designed to so that the public would have greater visibility into government.

In addition, individual states have also enacted legislation designed to guarantee the public’s access to records of all official business by any agency, regardless of the means of transmission.

These laws are also known as open records laws or public records laws, and are customarily referred to as FOIA laws, after the federal Freedom of Information Act. The purpose of these laws is to make elected and other public officials accountable for the decisions that they make and the tax dollars that they spend.

The state laws are evolving, however, but using the Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law as an example, public records could include election records, voter registration and voter records, financial records, audits, bids, budgets, economic development records such as convention center bookings, tourism promotions, personal financial records, tax payer records, telephone bills, various investigations, litigation, attorney bills and payments, settlements, criminal cases to name a few.

Importantly, the content, not the modality of communication, is determinative.

That means that records of official business may be interpreted to include any type of electronic communications such as email, texts, public instant messages, unified communications, collaboration tools and social media. So, for example, the placement of materials on a city’s Facebook page or tweets in connection with official business could be deemed as “public records” and would be subject to public records retention schedules and would have to be provided upon request.

Interestingly, anyone may request business records at any time without specifying a reason. And although the state laws typically do not define specific response times, governmental agencies should put recordkeeping processes and associated technology in place to capture, and archive electronic business records, across multiple means of transmissions, so that they are retrievable upon demand within reasonable timeframes.

And what are the consequences of improper recordkeeping? Or of not being able to provide the information in a timely manner?

We have all seen newspaper articles by journalists refused access to this public information, or who have waited long times for these requests to be fulfilled. Activists, average citizens, newspapers and journalists may also file law suits that are expensive and time consuming. In some cases, state agencies may actually be prosecuted for alleged criminal violations.

Is your department or public agency ready to comply with the Sunshine Laws in your state?

SF-Logo-RGB (2)

Actiance: The Key For Driving Compliant Social Media Success on Spredfast

By Jim Petty,   March 25, 2014

Jim PettyToday’s blog post is by Jim Petty, Vice President of Partnerships and Corporate Development for #TeamActiance.

If you want to build lasting relationships with your customers, it’s more important than ever to ensure your brand is engaging in the right conversations at the right time. As brands seek to reach more targeted audiences, the volume of conversations taking place increases. And, that increase in conversation isn’t without risk. Things happen. People say things they maybe shouldn’t, they click ‘Send’ without reviewing, and they make comments that aren’t fully informed. Companies need a solution in place that provides a safety net, just in case, to protect their brand from reputational and financial damage.

SF_Partner_Badge-orange (1)Today I’m pleased to share that Actiance has partnered with Spredfast to provide enterprise-grade governance for the Spredfast social relationship platform. With a layer of governance that only Actiance Socialite can provide, organizations will have the control, security, and archiving capabilities they need to deploy Spredfast while ensuring compliance with nearly any information governance requirement.

This partnership with Spredfast helps customers – including those in regulated and litigious industries – overcome legal, corporate, and regulatory barriers that may have prevented them from giving employees access to social networks where they can openly exchange ideas and share content. Our joint solution gives organizations the confidence to use Spredfast to publish and respond on social networks, and then quickly reconstruct entire events and conversations through Actiance’s context-aware data capture – including modified or deleted events.

Importantly, this integrated solution helps organizations save time and money when content needs to be found and reviewed in the future. Social content can be created, edited and even deleted by any number of people at any given time. Traditional governance solutions capture this content as individual, disconnected events, then typically turn them into individual emails; and those that can capture edited content usually can’t capture the fact that content was later deleted. Without the ability to see all content in a logical, conversational format, along with any edits and deletes, the processing, review and production of that content during discovery is extremely expensive.

Socialite provides a complete, contextual view of all social content. This allows reviewers to better understand what was said, when it was said, and what was meant. With this deeper level of understanding, they are better able to determine things like whether content is relevant to litigation or if additional corrective action needs to be taken. It also helps dramatically lower costs by improving the ease, speed, and accuracy of these tasks for Spredfast customers.

Belbey Blogs: How Do Regulated Firms Roll Out Social Media?

By Joanna Belbey,   March 20, 2014

belbeyToday’s post is by Joanna Belbey, Social Media and Compliance Specialist, Actiance. Follow Joanna on Twitter @Belbey.

Many regulated firms take a phased approach when launching social media. They may enable their users to use one social media site for several months, and once they have acquired expertise, allow them access to a second or third network. Or they may start off in a “locked down” read-only policy, and evolve to a more flexible policy over time. It is all based on the risk tolerance and culture of compliance. One size does not fit all.


Before firms launch, they tend to invite fewer than 20 people to test policies and technology. Participants could include the original Social Media Working Group, key stakeholders, plus one or two end users from each of the businesses who are early adopters. A cooperative, team approach is important. Test scripts for polices and technology are created and systematically tested during a fixed time period, typically two weeks. Some firms gather testers in a conference room for a day or two and run through all the policies together. The key learnings from the Test phase are used to revamp policies and work with technology vendors to tweak any technological issues that may arise.


Pilots vary from firm to firm. The most manageable approach is to invite no more than 50 participants to Pilot one social network based on success criteria of particular lines of businesses. The Pilot continues until everyone is using the network effectively and positive results are measured. Once everyone in the initial Pilot is up to speed, one approach is to continue with the same group and add additional social networks. Or some firms have multiple Pilots with different groups using different social media networks. Firms may also elect to add participants to various groups. As firms gain experience, they refine the initial policies and continue to test larger groups. During this phase, some firms allow posting of pre-approved content, others only allow participants in a read-only mode.

Once all the policies are tested across all the social networks that the firm plans to use, firms begin actual deployment. Firms tend to roll out access to social media in waves, based on training schedules.

Editor’s note: It’s best to not to invite your “Top Producers” at this early stage. Wait until all the wrinkles are ironed out before you invite highly visible, and often very vocal, financial advisors or producers to participate. You want your most valuable resources, with the ear of management, to have a flawless experience from the first day.

Phase I – Read Only:

Firms who are blocking social media now, may elect to allow initial employee access to social media (typically LinkedIn) in a “read-only mode” as a first step. That is, firms may allow employees to log on to social media networks, but, prohibit and block all electronic communications from within the networks. For example, no updates, comments or InMail on LinkedIn. This approach offers many of the benefits of social media, without most of the associated risks. In fact, we have seen this conservative approach yield very positive financial results.

Some real life examples of how Financial Advisors are using LinkedIn in a “read-only” mode include:

  • A senior Financial Advisor noticed that a connection on LinkedIn retires. He reached out by phone and offers his congratulations. In the course of the conversation, he uncovered that his acquaintance has been saving for years without the help of a FA. She has nearly 3 million dollars in a 401K plan, individual stocks, bonds, and annuities. Over the course of several in-person meetings, the FA secured a new client – all because he became aware of a major “money-in-motion event” and acted on it. He leveraged the information from social media and then followed the traditional, firm-approved, sales process.
  • A new FA spent much of his adult life working overseas. Over time, he had lost contact with many of his friends and associates. He established a LinkedIn account and methodically reached out and connected with more than 400 prospective clients in the energy market in less than six months.
  • Financial Advisors and sales people in general, use LinkedIn to tap their fellow colleagues’ connections for warm introductions.
  • And finally, many FAs use LinkedIn to follow their connections’ job status updates. Changing jobs is an ideal opportunity to discuss 401k rollovers. Again, once they see that a connection has changed jobs, they reach out by phone or via firm email and follow their normal sales process.

In summary, registered persons may use social media, especially LinkedIn, in “read only” mode to stay up to date on the “life events” or “money-in-motion” of their clients and prospects. These stories share a common thread of using social media to identify opportunities and then following up using long established sales processes. In other words, using information gathered online to initiate or enhance relationships in person.

In addition to using social media for lead generation and income generation, firms all also anxious to tap news, information and conduct research. Since the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announcement last year that firms can use social media networks to announce key information, more and more firms are taking the first step of using social media in a “read only” mode.

Phase II: Early Deployment (Preapproved Content from a Library):

The next typical stage is allowing registered or associated persons to post pre-approved content from a central library. This requires that the marketing team develop a Content Strategy and Editorial Calendar designed to drive engagement. Due to regulatory constraints, most firms avoid pitching specific stocks, products, rates, or any type investing recommendations. Instead, firms tend to focus on general, helpful information. In the beginning, marketing communications groups typically conduct an inventory of existing firm content and then make that content “snackable” for use on social media. Firms may also hire writers or third parties to develop content. Some firms also may use third party content, although that may kick off certain regulatory and legal requirements. In any event, once the content has been pre-approved by compliance, it is made available to various groups. By closely tracking the engagement (clicks, likes, shares, comments), firms can tweak their Editorial Calendars and continue to create engaging content.

Phase III: Mature Deployment (“Authentic Voice”):

Over time, once risks are mitigated and processes and systems are working effectively, some firms may allow users to post personal or customized content in addition to content from a central library. Allowing the personality to shine through, or the use of an “Authentic Voice”, enhances engagement, and thus effectiveness, on social media. In this phase, users may post their own personalized updates. Firms typically test this approach by pre-reviewing all content from a small group of users before it is posted. However, this approach is not sustainable. Instead, after initial testing, firms that allow personalized content, use technology (“trigger words” or “lexicons”) to either block in real time, or to alert compliance after the fact, of inappropriate posts. Prohibited language could include investment recommendations (buy, sell, hold), exaggerated promises (guarantee), mentions of specific products and profanity. When allowing an “Authentic Voice”, firms tend to test with a small group, pilot to a slightly larger group, then deploy more widely as appropriate.

In summary, regulated firms tend to take a thoughtful approach to deploying social media. They test policies and technologies, pilot small groups, measure results, share successes, tweak polices, adapt content and add additional users and social media networks over time.

Social UK

By Sarah Carter,   March 18, 2014

Today’s blog post is by Sarah Carter, Social Nomad for #TeamActiance. Follow her and her adventures on the road @SarahActiance

In this, the first of a series of articles about social media usage around the world, our very own Social Nomad, Sarah Carter, takes a look at the use of social in her home country, the United Kingdom.

What was your first social network? Mine was Friends Reunited (pretty similar I’m told to Classmates in the US). I’m pretty sure I remember using it in 98/99, to look up old school friends, find out who’d got fat, bald, divorced and the like.

Source:  WeAreSocial.SG

Source: WeAreSocial.SG

The United Kingdom (UK) has come a long way since then, topping every other country in the world – as the most social. Social has penetrated 76% of the population. According to Offerpop London not only has more social media jobs than anywhere else outside of the USA, but social media addiction is also viewed as a medical condition.

No wonder then, since Twitter alerts was made available world wide on November 18, 2013, there have been more UK emergency service organizations sign up to use the service than have in even the United States!

As a nation there are a few key things that are important to us, on the birth of Prince George, the British Monarchy gained 40,000 followers and the most liked UK Facebook page is that of Manchester United (although that’s hardly surprising, MUFC’s fan base is anywhere but Manchester right?)

The UK office of national statistics (ONS) has just published their quarterly report on Internet usage – and while its not as comprehensive as the annual report (last produced August 2013), it

shows interesting trends over the last few quarters.

  • In 2013, 36 million adults (73%) in Great Britain accessed the Internet every day, 20 million more than in 2006, when directly comparable records began.
  • Access to the Internet using a mobile phone more than doubled between 2010 and 2013, from 24% to 53%.
  • In 2013, over half (53%) of all adults participated in social networking, up from 48% in 2012. 93% adults aged 16 to 24 have used social networks, but its use is not solely confined to the youngest age groups, with 50% of adults aged 45 to 54 year olds now reporting that they partake in social networking.

Figures about the networks themselves show some interesting trends:

  1. Facebook according to WeAreSocial is sitting at 36 million users in the UK
  2. Twitter saw some 15 million users in the last quarter of 2013, with 80% of Twitter users using mobile devices for access.
  3. At more than 13 millions users, up somewhat since their early 2013 announcement that 10 million users had been reached in the country, LinkedIn is also responsible for 64% of visits to corporate sites directed there by social.


However it’s not just about the number of us using social, as a nation we’re spending an increasing amount of time on social – WeAreSocial estimates that we spend 1 hour 51 minutes on social a day, we’re the third highest in Europe, behind Turkey and Italy – but hugely behind the Argentinians who are spending a whopping 4.3 hours a day socializing!



Whether employers should worry about that or not is another matter, we are increasingly using mobile devices to access our social sites – so perhaps our commutes are no longer about reading the paper, but checking in and checking out updates.

It should be an interesting year in 2014, Statista indicates that we should see a 5.6% growth in the number of social media users in the country. Not huge, but probably more telling as we see a hiatus in use of social growing in business until additional guidance is provided.

We’ll wait with baited breath to see what the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issue guidance during the first quarter (that means in the next month) – not because they see problems, but simply because firms have many questions that need answers. Watch this space for more details!

Belbey Blogs: Make Your First Step into Social the Right One

By Joanna Belbey,   March 17, 2014

social media drugsTodays’ post previously appeared in Pharmaceutical Compliance Monitor and is by Joanna Belbey, Social Media and Compliance Specialist, Actiance. Follow Joanna on Twitter @Belbey.

Social media and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are not known to be comfortable bed fellows.

According to a report released by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, only half of the top 50 pharmaceutical companies worldwide actively participate in social media on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. And only 10 of these companies utilize all three of these major social networking services for healthcare topics, and then mainly as a unilateral broadcasting channel to physicians and patients, rather than fostering interactions or discussions.

This however, looks set to change. After four years of deliberation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released much anticipated draft guidelines for the pharmaceuticals and biotech industry around the use of social media for marketing and promotional purposes (Guidance for Industry Fulfilling Regulatory Requirements for Postmarketing Submissions of Interactive Promotional Media for Prescription Human and Animal Drugs and Biologics). The FDA is widely expected to publish the finalized guidelines by July 2014.

Of note is the broad definition of ‘interactive promotional media’ mentioned in the draft guidelines. The FDA defines this medium as that which ‘allow(s) for real-time communications and interactions (e.g. blogs, microblogs, social networking sites, online communities, and live podcasts)’ that firms might use to promote themselves or their products.

The FDA draft guidelines include the proposed reporting obligations for member firms, with firms required to submit a copy of their first post on social media to the FDA. However, realizing that the real-time nature of social media communication makes the submission (and review) of every post impractical to both the firm and the regulator, the FDA will thereafter only require a monthly update with the names and URLs of the social networks used and the date of the firm’s most recent activity.

Another indication that the FDA has researched and analyzed how companies are using the medium, is that, it will be holding member firms accountable for its’ employees’ personal social media accounts if they are being used to promote the firm or the firm’s products.

Having established that the use of social media within the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry is still in its infancy, what can firms learn from the social media experience of other companies, who also come from heavily regulated industries?

Three of the most common missteps are:

1) One Size Fits all Social Media Policy
While having a corporate social media policy is a key foundation and building block to establishing a credible social media presence, the policy itself will not protect the firm from falling foul of regulatory requirements or sanctions.

Social media is constantly changing – within the space of just a few months last year, Actiance’s Social Media Labs detected 10 major changes that have gone ‘live’ on the main social networks. Some of these changes could have significant impacts on the social media interactions of a firm. A social media policy that does not take a long-term view of social media or have the breadth or the depth to cover the changing social media landscape is only worth the paper it’s printed on. Constant review and revisiting is required, with a view to update both the policy and employees where necessary.

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms have different divisions, each of which might want to use social media for very different reasons. Sales and marketing, research and development, right to the top of the organization, to the office of the Chief Executive and Board of Directors all come to mind. A single, overarching corporate social media policy may not fit all. Multiple policies may be needed, to speak specifically to the needs of the different groups within an organization, and to provide the comprehensive guidance needed for compliant use of social media within an organization.

2) Not Planning for Record Keeping
As evidenced from the draft guidelines, the FDA has indicated that they will ‘exercise enforcement discretion regarding the regulatory requirements for postmarketing submissions’. In a footnote, the FDA has also requested that ‘It is preferable for the firm to submit the interactive or real-time communications in an archivable format that allows FDA to view and interact with the submission in the same way as the end user (e.g., working links). Alternatively, firms should submit screen shots or other visual representations.

It is therefore essential for firms to institute good record keeping procedures that make it easy to record, archive and retrieve its social media communications on a regular basis. Not only will this be necessary for the monthly postmarketing submissions to the FDA, firms may also be called upon by the regulator to provide detailed information in the event of an enforcement spot check.

Third party technology providers are already helping firms in the banking and finance industries that also have record keeping requirements from regulators and legislators. These solutions streamline and automate the process of monitoring, archiving and retrieving social media interactions making it possible for firms to comply with the rules and regulations while benefiting from social media.

3) Ignoring Key Learnings from Other Industries and Countries
The finance and banking industry is worth studying – in 2010, the industry regulator issued its first set of social media guidance, FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06 Guidance on Blogs and Social Media Networks. Since then, more iterations have followed, but social media adoption rates within the industry are high. A 2012 study by Accenture found that 60% of the financial advisers it surveyed had daily contact with clients through social media.

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry regulators from UK have already issued guidance for the use of social media. And there are examples of social media campaigns run across multiple social networks.

Learning from firms both within and outside of this industry, who have already ventured into the waters of social media, can provide insights and fast track the process of engagement.

Three missteps that are less common are:

1) Not Providing the Tools to Enable Employees to Engage Authentically on Social Media
One of the key elements of successful adoption of social media is training. Firms often educate their employees on what is not allowed and ignore the opportunity of teaching employees the nuances of using social media authentically, engagingly and effectively.

Not every employee within the firm approaches social media with the same level of skill or experience. This can potentially pose more problems for a firm than not having a detailed corporate social media policy.

This is illustrated in the case of a pharmaceutical company in the UK, who in 2011, was ruled in breach of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Code, for promotion of a prescription-only medicine to the public via Twitter. The firm tried to argue that the tweet in question had been posted by an ‘inexperienced’ Twitter user. However, the firm was ultimately held responsible by the ABPI for the Tweet and sanctioned.

2) Not Working out a Content Strategy
Social media interactions are by their very nature two-way, real-time conversations. The people who use social media are driven by the desire to seek out information and connections that are meaningful to themselves.

The success stories from within the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry demonstrate that compelling content, such as lifestyle and health information, drives engagement from patients and physicians on social media.

Sharing drug release information on social media platforms should not be the main thrust of any firm’s social media initiative (and indeed, with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requiring firms to state the name, quantitative ingredients, and clear and neutral information on side effects, contraindications and effectiveness of the drug every time a drug is mentioned, the character limitation of social media may present a challenge).

A solid content strategy that works out not only what to share but when to share and who is doing the sharing is a cornerstone to getting it right on social media. Under the draft FDA guidelines, personal accounts, i.e., employee accounts, fall under the same scrutiny when used to promote the firm. It is therefore crucial that firms provide employees with appropriate content that can be shared quickly and easily, while having peace of mind that they are doing so within the regulatory framework.

3) Sending All Posts to the FDA In Advance
The draft FDA guidelines make it clear that the FDA understands that the real-time nature of social media communication, makes it impractical and indeed, onerous, for firms to submit all its interactions for review before posting.

Aside from the first post, the FDA requires only the ‘postmarketing’ submissions on a monthly basis using an online form provided on the FDA website.

This clears the way for firms to use social media platforms as they are meant to be used – communicating with patients, physicians, and other stakeholders in real-time.

Looking Ahead
The finalized guidelines from the FDA are due in July 2014. So, now is the perfect time for firms to craft social media employee usage policies, select third party vendors for controls and recordkeeping and to develop content strategies to take advantage of social media to build positive relationships with patients, physicians and stakeholders.


Face Off Tweetchat #Actiance ROI

By Joanna Belbey,   March 14, 2014

On March 11, 2014, Victor Gaxiola and Joanna Belbey discussed the challenges and opportunities of social media within the financial services industry on Twitter. Below is a summary, or Storify, of that conversation.