Solutions for the top six adviser social-media risk factors

Because of the open and interactive nature of social media, there are several risk factors of which financial advisers must be mindful and prepared

Jan 9, 2013 @ 12:01 am

By Amy McIlwain

In the financial world, it is understood that with every opportunity comes risks.

This law is applicable to most aspects of business, including social-media marketing. Because of the open and interactive nature of social media, there are several risk factors of which financial advisers must be mindful and prepared.

Negative comments: I know businesses as great as yours are never deserving of negative comments, but there may come a time when people post negative comments, thoughts or opinions on your social-media platforms. This may come in the form of @mentions on Twitter, posts to your Facebook wall, and comments on your posts, group pages, blog posts, etc.

What to do if this happens? Upon seeing these comments, you may feel inclined to lash back or click “delete.” But you should not do this. Instead, take the high road and respond with poise and maturity. Promptly (within 24 hours) acknowledge the negative feedback and offer a resolution to the issue. If the situation is too complex for social media, offer an e-mail address or phone number for the individual to contact you. Remember: On social media, everyone is watching. Knowing this, it is important to handle difficult situations in a way that makes a good impression on your business.

Inappropriate comments: Unlike “negative comments,” inappropriate comments come in the form of profanity, or offensive or threatening language. Although it is unlikely that your business will face this problem, it is always important to be prepared.

What to do if this happens? Any posts or comments containing rude, offensive or threatening language must be deleted ASAP. Regardless, you should politely reach out to the individual (via personal message and/or e-mail) to explain why the post was removed. Ultimately, everything posted on your social-media platforms is your responsibility, and any posts containing inappropriate sentiments will reflect negatively on your brand.

Compliance: Allow me to reiterate: Everything posted on your social-media platforms is your responsibility. Your posts and your fans' posts must adhere to the compliance policies set forth by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

What to do if this happens? If somebody violates a compliance policy, the post must be removed. This can be handled similar to the way inappropriate comments are handled. Get in touch with the individual personally or publically to explain why the post had to be removed.

Spam: Spam messages can be harmful to your company accounts in many ways. First, they are extremely unattractive and reflect poorly on your brand. Second, they put your accounts and the accounts of those involved at risk for viruses.

What to do if this happens? Delete posts that weren't written by a real person, are totally off topic, were clearly written by a translator, ask for money or attempt to sell something, or include suspicious links (and always take caution when clicking unknown links).

Errors in posts: I used to panic upon realizing I posted something with errors. But let's face it — everybody is susceptible to error. Although you should take every measure that you can to prevent errors (reread posts, be cautious of not confusing personal and business profiles), there are many ways to turn error into opportunity.

What to do if this happens? The action depends on the type of error:

Typo: The post can be deleted and re-posted.

If someone interacted with it: Comment on the incorrect post and/or aim to point out the error before someone else. The secret to doing this successfully is having a humble and lighthearted tone.

Portrays incorrect information: The post should be corrected and the correction should be noted on a new post.

Competitors: There may come a day when you notice your competitors are following you. Do not let this fluster you. They are simply trying to assess why you are so successful. If and when this happens, there are a few things you should consider:

They can see your connections and prospects: Adjust your privacy settings so they can't.

They can see all of your content: Once again, if you don't want them to, adjust your privacy settings.

As you delve deeper into the social-media realm, it is essential to have an understanding of the major risks so that you can have a game plan in place. As always, if you have any questions, please reach out to us.

Amy McIIwain is president of Financial Social Media, which teaches financial services firms how to combine social-media and traditional marketing techniques. Follow the firm on Twitter @FinSocMedia.

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