Author Archives: Joanna Belbey

Starting Social at Your Firm? Avoid These Mistakes

By Joanna Belbey,   April 21, 2014

belbeyToday’s article is by Joanna Belbey, Social Media and Compliance Specialist for Actiance. Follow Joanna on Twitter @Belbey. This article appeared on Financial Planning April 9, 2014.

A wealth management firm’s first foray into social media can be fraught with risks. Taking a measured approach is essential to avoid embarrassment, or worse, being caught out of compliance with regulatory requirements set out by state laws, regulatory rulings and federal regulations.

So what are the most common mistakes a firm could make when introducing social?

1) Not identifying and involving stakeholders early.

Going it alone is not an option when it comes to launching social media within an organization. A non-exhaustive list of stakeholders include corporate communications, marketing, investor relations, public relations, human relations, risk, legal, compliance, customer service, registered reps, IT, data security and senior management.

Not everyone will be enthusiastic about social media, but they each bring a different perspective and could identify areas of risk that an organization would want to work through before launching any social media initiative.

Importantly, there are typically only a few people in any organization that can say “yes” to a project and almost everyone can say “no.” And they will, unless you get their buy-in before launch.

2) Not doing enough research.

Look at your competitors and see what other organizations in regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals or energy are doing. They would have to comply with similar regulatory requirements when it comes to social media. Research could reveal real-world examples and inspiration as to how your firm may want to use social media.

For example, when it comes to recruiting, some firms may use LinkedIn as a recruitment tool, with frequent job postings, videos and background on the firm. Or perhaps they use Facebook to illustrate the culture of the firm through philanthropy, events, photos, employee highlights and campus recruitment. Many use Twitter to post more factual updates such as press releases, links to white papers and events.

And don’t forget to research your own firm’s presence on social media. What is the sentiment towards your firm? Technology is available to help you in this area and to provide alerts when negative sentiment appears online. When negativity occurs, it’s more effective to join the conversation – correcting misconceptions and offering customer service – than to not be a part of the conversation at all.

From a regulatory perspective, it’s equally important to know whether your individual employees are adhering to your existing social media policies. In June 2013 FINRA issued an examination letter outlining requirements for a spot check of social media. Broker-dealers need to be prepared to provide an explanation of how the firm and registered persons are using social media and to provide a list of the firm’s top producing registered representatives using social media. So do your research!

3) Not developing a content strategy.

When Warren Buffet created a Twitter account and sent out his first tweet on May 2nd, 2013, there was great excitement. Despite garnering more than 805,000 followers, he has since tweeted only four times. But some commentators deem this to be worse than if he had never set up a profile in the first place.

Social media is a real-time medium. That means compelling content, provided on a regular schedule, is what will draw followers, customers and prospects to your brand. Most firms start by creating an inventory of pre-existing content currently available on their websites and other content repositories that can be leveraged for social media. Firms could consider including industry trends, economic analysis, industry expertise, general topics on managing risk, saving and wealth management, news, press releases, events, appearances or quotes from your subject matter experts. Some firms look through their 50 page white papers to extract interesting, standalone tidbits of information and link back to the source document.

Remember that you should be prepared to handle queries or comments from your followers about your posts in a timely way, too. Social media is about two-way conversations, not a broadcast medium for corporate advertising.

4) Not properly training employees.

Training is essential to the success of any social media deployment. It’s also required by FINRA and the SEC. The training should illustrate your corporate social media policies and explain what is allowed and what is prohibited. If features are blocked or prohibited, provide the reason to enhance compliance.

Providing specific examples of dos and don’ts accelerates the learning process when training advisors. In addition to fundamental training required by the regulators, advisors need training on best practices. Show participants how to set up profiles, engage with followers, contribute to communities, demonstrate expertise, grow their networks and analyze their effectiveness. Discuss the advantages of various networks to help users select which network best meets their needs.

Don’t forget that not everyone within the firm approaches social media with the same level of skill or experience. So make sure the training provides tips for using social media authentically, engagingly and effectively.

5) Not understanding the regulatory requirements.

Understanding the requirements set out in FINRA Regulatory Notices 10-06, 11-36 12-29 and recent guidance provided by the SEC is essential to avoiding non-compliance and potentially expensive sanctions.
For example, FINRA requires that:

  • Firms ensure proper record keeping of social media communications.
  • Firms qualify customer testimonials and endorsements for registered representatives which might mean prohibiting “Recommendations” and “Skills & Endorsements” on LinkedIn, for instance.
  • Recommendations are suitable, meaning it may be impossible for investing recommendations to be made on social media.
  • Firms ensure that all advertising communications are accurate, fair, balanced and not misleading.
  • Employees are properly supervised and evidence of supervision is provided to regulators.

In addition, the SEC, in its “Investment Adviser Use of Social Media” guidance, suggests that each firm identify and consider the compliance implications of social media and test whether existing policies and procedures address or mitigate those risks. Highlights from the SEC’s non-exhaustive list of 13 factors advisors should consider before embarking on social media include:

  • Complying with federal securities laws.
  • Putting in place specific policies governing the use of social media.
  • Identifying risks and test procedures to effectively address risks.
  • Frequency of social media site monitoring.
  • Design and implementation of workflows for pre-approving content.
  • Training and certification of advisors on the use of social media (echoing the advice provided by both FINRA and IIROC in Canada).
  • Allocating sufficient resources to monitor social media.
  • Examining the functionality of each social network to ensure client privacy is upheld and the firm and its clients are protected from security risks such as data leakage and malware.

Recently, the SEC also revised guidance to allow the use of testimonials for investment advisors in certain circumstances. In this latest development, advisors choosing to display customer testimonials will have to display all testimonials received, and cannot cherry pick only the most glowing testimonials. Compliance departments will need to review this new SEC guidance carefully before allowing advisors to accept testimonials.

So, before you embark on your social media journey, ensure that your organization has evaluated and selected the necessary technology and processes to deal with these requirements.Avoiding these common mistakes will ensure that your firm’s social media journey will be compliant and successful.

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?





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?

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.

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.

Belbey Blogs: 5 Major Areas of Compliance for Social Media

By Joanna Belbey,   March 7, 2014

brochureTodays’ blog is from Joanna Belbey, Social Media and Compliance Specialist, Actiance. You maybe follow her @Belbey on Twitter.

Yesterday, Victor Gaxiola (@victorgaxiola) my colleague at Actiance, and I attended and live tweeted at BDI Financial Services Social Business Leadership Forum in Boston.

We also presented “Leveraging Social Business Amid the Changing Regulatory Landscape”. We know that staying compliant with regulations continues to be a major source of concern for financial services firms, however, there is now a wealth of guidance we have seen from the regulators. (See the end of this blog for details.) In response, the conversation is slowly shifting from “no!” to “how?”.

Whether your firm is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC), or Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), there are five major areas of regulations that firms need consider when crafting social media policies:

1) Recordkeeping
Firms need to preserve and be able to produce records of written business communications for specific time periods. To clarify, if you type it out, it’s “written”. This includes Updates and InMail on LinkedIn; Tweets and Direct Messages on Twitter; Posts and Messages on Facebook. Although regulators only are interested in business communications, firms face challenges in segmenting personal from business communications on social media. Third party content must also be captured. The regulators are indifferent to the source of the communication, so the

recordkeeping requirement includes communications from personal devices, as the content, not the source, is determinative.

Best practices
Work with third parties to capture, archive and make e-discoverable all written communications. Many firms prohibit retweets to avoid appearance of “adoption and entanglement” with resulting recordkeeping and advertising requirements.

2) Testimonials
Client testimonials or endorsements are prohibited for Investment Advisors (IAs) and need to meet certain qualifications to be allowed for Registered Representatives (RRs).

Best practices
Most firms prohibit “Recommendations” and “Skills & Endorsements” on LinkedIn, “Retweets” on Twitter. Some also prohibit “Likes” on Facebook to avoid the appearance of an endorsement.

3) Suitability
Depending on whether financial advisors are registered representatives or investment advisors, they have a varying degree of responsibility for making appropriate investing recommendations to their customers. In other words, they are challenged to “Know Your Customer” and must understand their clients’ investing goals and risk tolerance in order to make recommendations.

Best practices
As it is impossible for recommendations made on social media to be suitable for every investor, most firms prohibit product recommendations and investment strategies unless preapproved by a registered principle of the firm.

4) Advertising
There are well established content standards that now apply to social media. Communications with the public must be accurate, fair, balanced and not misleading. Factors that would impact investment decisions must be disclosed. Firms are also responsible for both suitability of third party content (links, posts).

Best practices
Static content, such as a LinkedIn Profile, that contains more than standard business card information, is considered an advertisement and requires pre-approval by a registered principal of the firm. Interactive communications do not require pre-approval, however firms must demonstrate that they have supervised a pre-determined percentage of electronic communications from registered persons. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have both static and interactive content.

5) Supervision
Firms must “evidence”, or prove, that they are supervising communications. Lack of supervision is a major regulatory risk for firms that create processes that are not followed or polices that are unenforceable. Note, due to new FINRA Supervision rules approved by SEC in December, you can assume that supervision will continue to be priority for the regulators.

Best Practices
Many firms adapt written supervisory procedures already in place. Rather than block the use of social media, firms are increasingly taking the approach of enabling its compliant use. Firms adapt existing workflow approvals to include pre-approval of static content to be used on social media. Principle-based employee social media polices that are enforceable, demonstrate a thoughtful approach to the regulators. Firms also limit access to social media unless registered persons are supervised and trained in advance.

To take a deeper dive on concepts covered here, please see the links below:

FINRA Regulatory Guidance 10-06: Social Media Web Sites Guidance on Blogs and Social Networking Web Sites
FINRA Regulatory Guidance 11-39: Social Media Websites Use of Personal Devices for Business Communications
FINRA Regulatory Guidance 11-39: Communications With the Public
SEC: National Examination Risk Alert, Investment Adviser Use of Social Media
FFIEC: Consumer Compliance Risk Management Guidance
IIROC: Guidelines for the review, supervision and retention of advertisements, sales literature and correspondence

BDI Healthcare

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

The Future of Healthcare Communications Summit is being offered by Business Development Institute (BDI) February 25 (tomorrow!) in New York City. Personally, I’m fascinated by the regulatory challenges of using social media in healthcare. My goal is to share what I’ve learned from another highly regulated industry, financial services, to help healthcare firms use social media effectively, while complying with their rules and regulations.


light of the challenges and opportunities of the Affordable Healthcare Act, I am looking forward to hearing how pharmaceutical companies, hospital groups, insurers, medical device companies, and healthcare agencies are using social, mobile, and digital technologies in this rapidly changing landscape.

The agenda looks interesting. Topics include:

  • Leading the Change In Healthcare Education and Delivery: How to Surmount the Barriers
  • The Evolving Patient Journey
  • ACA Exchanges: Fallout of the 2013 Budget Agreement and what Pharma Can Do
  • Implications of the Affordable Care Act to the Pharmaceutical Industry
  • Complexity to Simplicity
  • How Hepatitis Outcomes Are Being Improved Via Modern Communication Methods

And also I’m pleased to be introducing Carissa Caramanis O’Brien, Social Media Community and Content Director, Aetna and Matt Wiggin, Head of Business Communications and Public Affairs, Aetna as they discuss:

  • How Communications and Community Are Evolving in a Changing Healthcare Environment

If you are interested in joining me for free, I have a couple of free tickets. Tweet @Belbey for the promo code. First come, first serve. Hope to see you there!

Belbey Blogs: Observations From Legal Tech, FinanceConnect14 and Social Media Week

By Joanna Belbey,   February 21, 2014

snowToday’s blog is from Joanna Belbey, Social Media Compliance Specialist at Actiance. You can follow Joanna @Belbey on Twitter.

Although we’ve been slammed with snowstorms, the conference season is in full swing in New York. I’ve been putting on my boots to trudge out into the snow to attend some old favorites, such as Social Media Week New York and LinkedIn FinanceConnect14, plus a new one for me, LegalTech.

LegalTech is held at the New York Hilton every year and attracts thousands of attorneys from firms large and small. Actiance was an exhibitor and Doug Kaminski (@DougTwit), VP Western Regional Sales, Actiance, spoke on “Social Governance: From Cradle to Grave”. Kaminski reminded the audience that 10-15 years ago, when it came to e-discovery, firms only had to worry about email for electronic communications. Nowadays, firms have a greater challenge. For example, traders may start a conversation on email, then “channel hop” to instant messages, or perhaps engage with a group on IBM Connections. They may even send messages through Bloomberg, or direct messages via Twitter or text each other over time. As you can imagine, it’s time consuming (and therefore expensive), to recreate the conversation across all those different forms of electronic communications for a regulator or in response to civil litigation during an e-discovery process. Context is key to understanding “who knew what when”. It is therefore essential for firms to institute good record keeping procedures and deploy technology that makes it easy to record, archive and retrieve its electronic communications in context when required.

In keeping with the e-discovery focus, predictive coding was an important theme at LegalTech and the topic of many of the educational sessions. In short, predictive coding is a method that combines human judgment with software to automate the identification of relevant (or “responsive”) documents among countless documents under review. For those new to the subject, “Predictive Coding for Dummies” by Matthew Nelson, Esq, (@infogovlawyer) is a great place to start.

The other event I recently attended was LinkedIn FinanceConnect14. This one- and a half-day event drew hundreds of marketing, communications and compliance professionals out into a blizzard to hear about the latest tools on LinkedIn and industry success stories. In short, we learned that financial services firms are making slow and steady progress leveraging social media throughout pockets of the organization. Early concerns about compliance are offset by RIO. From pinpoint targeting and reduction of costs of recruitment, to attracting multimillion dollar new deals, social media is slowly transforming the enterprise. Read more in our blog Themes and Observations from LinkedIn Connect..

And finally, this is Social Media Week (SMW), an event that is held twice a year in cities across the globe. Every year in February, here in New York, there are hundreds of events all over the city. There is one “main stage” of curated sessions that requires a paid pass to attend, however, many of the sessions are offered via Livestream, so you can watch right from your desk for free. Many of the sessions are designed for advertising agencies and corporate communications personnel and I was pleased to see a few events specifically for regulated industries.

I attended “Rules of the Road – Four Areas of Law Every Social Media Marketer Should Know” in person (out again into a snow storm!). Seth Rogin (@TheSethRogin) of Mashable, Jake Feldman of Johnson & Johnson, Ellie Boragine, Jet Blue (@JetBlue) and S. Gregory Boyd, Terri Seligman and Edward Rosenthal of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz walked the audience through some of the legal risks of social media for the brand.

Protect your brand by being appropriate.

The panel conveyed that one of the core challenges of social media is that firms are using a marketing tool that was designed for personal use. It’s an ongoing challenge to remind corporate marketers that, although something may be appropriate in “social”, it may not be in the best interest of the brand. The attorneys on the panel relayed that it can be a fine line between what’s commercial and what’s not. Firms need to interpret and apply traditional rules to new world of social media, just as they were challenged 20 years ago by the legal issues of linking and copying copywrited images to servers. Be Wary of Celebrities In general, the unauthorized use of a likeness, picture or worse, a celebrity, for advertising purposes presents huge risks to firms. There are times when firms get lucky, such as a recent playful interchange between musical artist Pharell Williams and Arby’s during the Grammys. However, in most cases, an attempt (whether intended or not) to convey an implied endorsement by a celebrity, usually results in letter writing, apologies, legal fees and a big check. Although firms may argue “right of use” if something is newsworthy, brands should define in advance whether they really want to be journalists. Firms walk a fine line between talking about current events and risking a “cease and desist” letter by using trademarked names, like the Super Bowl, the Olympics and the Grammy’s. So what if a celebrity mentions your brand in a favorable way on social media? The consensus of the panel was to err on the side of caution. Yes, you can reply publically to the celebrity, but, keep it neutral and be careful not to put words in his or her mouth.

What About Photos?

Every photo has two rightful owners: the photographer and the subject. Photographers are becoming increasingly aggressive about stopping brands from using their photos for commercial purposes. The least risky approach is to simply reach out to the photographer and ask permission to use the image. As for user generated content, and particularly contests, prominent disclosures and terms and conditions for the use of the photographs and videos on your sites are a must. Even better, if the users must click to agree to terms and conditions.

Native Advertising is a new name, but, not a new concept.

Publisher-produced brand content, or native advertising, is similar in concept to a traditional advertorial, which is a paid placement attempting to look like an article. The concept harkens back to the early Texaco Star Theatre and soap operas. Federal Trade Association (FTC) guidelines remind us that “clear and conspicuous” disclosures are key to making sure readers understand that they are reading sponsored content, regardless of the channel. The more control you have over the content, the more regulatory obligations your firm has. How far does the notification have to go? How much does the consumer need to see? When? The lines are blurry. Proceed with caution.

Don’t Trash the Enemy

Comparative advertising is tried and true in the United States. However, comparisons must be truthful and fully substantiated. Social media is just a new forum with new problems. An interesting challenge arises when your fans make claims that your brand cannot make as the claims can’t be proven.The panel suggested that brands create and disclose policies around clarifying incorrect information and the type of content they will delete off their sites. Deleting offensive posts are obvious, but firms also should consider the other types of content that should be deleted, such off label use of pharmaceutical products, for example. Also, although “puffery” is tolerated, be careful of anything that hints of false advertising.

And finally,

We Aren’t All The Same

When rolling out social media campaigns globally, be mindful that you can’t just translate US content and use it everywhere. Social mores can vary by region, so it’s best to do your research to avoid offending your target audience. The panel suggested working with local experts to guide you through cultural differences and regional rules and regulations.  In summary, there is an ongoing push and pull between the marketers and the attorneys. Or in short, this informative and entertaining session could have also been called, “Will this get me into trouble?”

Are you pushing the boundaries?