FINRA Issues New Social Media Guidelines

Checking Stock Market ListingsA word of advice: I am not a lawyer. Nor am I a registered financial adviser. This is my opinion only and should be treated as such. For guidance, consult your legal counsel.

If you are in PR, IR, corporate communications or social media, chances are you’ll run into fun rules such as Sarbanes-Oxley, Regulation FD and FINRA guidelines. One of these things these rules have in common is that they are behind the times.

But the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has taken a pretty large step in modernizing the rules that financial services companies must follow while engaging in social media and PR. You can download the FINRA social media guidelines as a PDF.

The big takeaways
The important pieces of this update are the changes to the definitions of static and interactive content. Under the new rules, “Examples of static content typically available through social networking sites include profile, background or wall information.” This information is treated like an advertisement and is subject to regulator approval processes.

Interactive content is a bit more flexible. Tweets, blog comments etc… are interactive content and do not require the approval of an approved regulator. One of the interesting challenges, however are the monitoring and archival requirements.”firms may adopt procedures that require principal review of some or all interactive electronic communications prior to use or may adopt various
methods of post-use review, including sampling and lexicon-based search methodologies as discussed in Regulatory Notice 07-59.”

Others are discussing these social media regulation changes and giving advice on how to proceed as well.

The big impact
I know this is a bit more heady than what we normally discuss, but it’s important. Our society is changing. The way brands interact with us is changing. And the need for the government to monitor those interactions is changing.

As communications professionals, we need to be able to provide sound guidance for our client. But at the same time we need to be innovative in our approach to engaging with our target audiences. To that end, the best advice I can give is know the rules and come as close to breaking them as possible.

Having a policy in place is also essential for firms looking to engage in social media. Having a set of rules that outlines approved interactions will help avoid confusion and potential violations. But in doing so, make sure you’re consulting your legal counsel.

The times, they are a-changin’…

Eric works for WaggenerEdstrom and is a PR consultant for Etelos, Inc. (OTC BB: ETLO). Nothing written here represents the views of Etelos or WaggenerEdstrom.

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