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Best Practices for Social Media - Insurance Compliance Insight Recommendations

The February 8 issue of [Insurance Compliance Insight (ICI)] had a very informative piece entitled Best Practice Tip: Use FINRA Regulatory Notice as Guidance for Insurer Social Media Policies.

Just last year I attended an insurance compliance conference and in a regulator session that was not on this topic but had an open Q & A session, I asked a state regulator what his state was doing about social media. He gave me a line describing what he thinks of Twitter that got a lot of laughs and was very funny, but revealing in that it made clear that his department had not seriously addressed these issues. FINRA is taking a different approach and ICI suggests that companies would be wise to look to FINRA’s Notices when they draft their own social media policies and procedures.

As a blogger, one of the areas discussed in the ICI piece that is of particular interest to me relates to blogs and is the distinctions between static content blogs as advertising and those which are interactive, which are called an interactive communication forum. In the latter situation, prior approval is not required from FINRA, but if it appears that the firm as somehow endorsed or approved the content, then the comments could be considered to be endorsed or approved by the firm. Most of my posts here could be viewed as static, in that comments are not often submitted (though they are welcome!) but it is also potentially interactive in that the comment facility does exist and is sometimes used, (though most often comments are sent to me privately via e-mail). So how does that fit?

My understanding is that since this blog is not used to engage in real-time, interactive communication, it would be considered static content. However, under the FINRA Notices, I would still be concerned about the possibility that the comments that are made could somehow be attributed to me or be viewed as being approved by me. FINRA looks at whether there is a disclaimer saying that third party posts don’t reflect the views of the firm and have not been reviewed for completeness or accuracy.

Clearly, it would seem such a disclaimer is a best practice. Though mine is not a firm regulated by FINRA, that type of disclaimer is going on the To Do list!

The Insurance Compliance Insight article makes several other “Best Practices” recommendations that make good sense for all of us who use social media in business. These include:

  • Establishing appropriate usage guidelines for customers and other third parties that are permitted to post on firm-sponsored Web sites;
  • Establishing processes for screening third-party content based on the expected usage and frequency of third party posts; and
  • Disclosing firm policies regarding its responsibility for third-party posts.

My guess is that the regulator who made the Twitter comment just a few short months ago would not do so today. Social media can’t be laughed at or ignored. It is just too big. We all need to be looking at it and these best practices make sense for today’s social media. Keeping up with the new developments is what will be the challenge for regulators as well as companies…  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just make fun of Twitter?