Any business, regardless of the industry, needs to have an active social media presence these days.
It presents an unmatched opportunity to engage in direct two-way communication with customers & prospects.
However, for some of these businesses, there are much more serious social media challenges present.
For highly regulated sectors such as finance, healthcare, government, insurance, etc., social media can be a minefield. We have an industry-wise breakdown. So you can jump to the section of your choice.
One wrong tweet or social media post can inflict some serious damage on a company. And that's not it. For these sectors, there are some serious legal implications present as well.
In this post, we'll look at what social media compliance is, some common social media compliance risks, and a handful of amazing tips to help you create a compliance strategy.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Social Media Compliance?
- Common Social Media Compliance Risks
- 9 Practical Tips to Ensure Social Media Compliance in Teams
- Top 3 Social Media Compliance Tools
- Social Media Compliance For Financial Institutions
- Social Media Compliance For Healthcare
- Social Media Compliance For Government Agencies
- Prioritizing Social Media Compliance For Long-Term Success!
What Is Social Media Compliance?
Social media compliance refers to the act of adhering to regulations, laws, and guidelines while using social media platforms.
These rules may vary depending on the industry, region, or organization that the user belongs to. Social media compliance is essential for businesses, organizations, and individuals who use social media to reach and communicate with the public.
To comply with social media regulations, users must be aware of the laws that govern their use of social media platforms.
For instance, in the healthcare industry, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulates the use of social media by healthcare professionals to ensure patient confidentiality.
Similarly, in the financial industry, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued guidelines on using social media for marketing and advertising purposes.
Compliance with social media regulations involves various aspects, such as protecting sensitive information, ensuring accuracy in posts, avoiding discriminatory content, and maintaining ethical standards.
Most businesses and organizations have policies and procedures to comply with these regulations, which involve training, monitoring, and reporting.
Common Social Media Compliance Risks
Did you know, 59% of companies don't carry out any form of social media risk assessment? 21% of all monitored posts in July 2020 were flagged for compliance observations—an increase of 12% since January 2020.
And most aren't even aware of the compliance risks.
21% of all monitored posts in July 2020 were flagged for compliance observations—an increase of 12% since January 2020
So, what risks does social media pose? Let's explore!
Confidentiality & Data Security
Sharing sensitive or confidential information on social media platforms can lead to legal and reputational consequences. Several government bodies have strict rules on social media regarding privacy, confidentiality & data security, some of which include:
- FTC (the Federal Trade Commission)
- FINRA (the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority)
- SEC (the Securities and Exchange Commission)
We recently issued an investor alert on the risks of short-term trading based on social media. Here it is, icymi: https://t.co/Z348EMPRfX— SEC_News (@SEC_News) February 8, 2021
- HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
The regulations vary from industry to industry. Some of the prominent ones you can follow are :
These regulations are strict about data storage & sharing.
Misleading or Inaccurate Information
Posting inaccurate or misleading information on social media can harm the reputation of an organization or individual and may result in legal liabilities. For businesses operating in regulated industries, false or misleading claims should never be a part of the marketing and promotional activities.
Any advertisements or statements that you run on social media channels should not mislead or deceive the audience. Businesses may also be held responsible for posts or public comments made by others on their social media pages, which are likely to mislead consumers.
In 2011, a court case held a company responsible for “false, misleading, and deceptive conduct” when a fan published user testimonials on its social media pages.
Although the company was not responsible for the initial publication of testimonials, the jury ruled that it became the publisher after it decided not to remove them despite its knowledge of the post.
Posting discriminatory content on social media can lead to legal action and harm the reputation of an organization. Discriminatory content includes any content that is offensive, derogatory, or discriminatory towards an individual or group based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics.
Companies should be aware of these risks and have policies in place to prevent such content from being posted on their social media platforms.
Industry Regulatory Violations
Social media compliance risks can arise from violating industry regulations or guidelines. For example, in the financial industry, the SEC and FINRA have issued guidelines on the use of social media for marketing and advertising purposes. Violating these guidelines can lead to legal action and financial penalties.
Healthcare professionals also face regulatory risks related to social media use, such as violating patient privacy laws under HIPAA. Organizations and individuals should be aware of the regulations that apply to their industry and implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance.
Social media can be a powerful tool for promoting a brand, but it can also harm a brand’s reputation if not used responsibly. Negative comments or reviews on social media can spread quickly and damage a brand’s reputation.
To mitigate this risk, companies should monitor their social media channels and respond promptly to negative comments or reviews. They should also have policies in place to ensure that employees use social media responsibly and represent the brand appropriately.
Intellectual Property Infringement
Social media teams should be aware of intellectual property rights and avoid infringing on the rights of others. Posting content that infringes on a copyright, trademark, or other intellectual property rights can lead to legal action and penalties.
Organizations should have policies in place to ensure that they have the necessary permissions or licenses to use the content on their social media channels. They should also monitor their social media channels for potential intellectual property infringements by their employees or others.
9 Practical Tips to Ensure Social Media Compliance in Teams
Tip #1: Develop Clear Social Media Policies and Guidelines
Developing social media policies and guidelines is the first step in making social media teams compliant with industry regulations and company policies.
The policies and guidelines must outline acceptable social media behavior, including rules regarding negative comments, inappropriate content, and legal and regulatory requirements. They should be communicated clearly to all members of the social media team.
Tip #2: Provide Regular Compliance Training
Regular training sessions should be provided so that all members of the social media team are aware of their roles and responsibilities regarding social media compliance. The training should cover topics such as legal and regulatory requirements, company policies, and best practices for social media use.
Tip #3: Monitor Social Media Channels
Monitor all your social channels regularly for potential compliance risks such as negative comments, inappropriate content, and intellectual property infringements. This can be done using social media monitoring tools that can track mentions of the brand and its products or services.
Tip #4: Establish a Social Media Post Approval Workflow
Create a social media post approval workflow to ensure that all social media posts are reviewed and approved by the appropriate individuals before being published. For example, a brand may require that all posts are approved by the marketing manager and legal team before being published.
Tip #5: Use Pre-Approved Content
Pre-approved content such as images, videos, templates, and marketing messages can help ensure social media compliance by providing a bank of pre-approved content that adheres to company policies and guidelines. This can also help streamline the social media post approval workflow.
The library of pre-approved content or asset manager provides the team with already approved and compliant social media content.
Tip #6: Keep Up-to-date With Regulatory Requirements
Keep up-to-date with the latest regulatory requirements regarding social media use in your industry. For example, a pharmaceutical company must comply with the FDA’s guidance on social media use when promoting its products on social media. Doing so will keep you away from any potential compliance issues.
Tip #7: Regularly Review and Update Policies
Review and update your social media policies regularly to ensure that they remain up-to-date with changes in laws, regulations, and best practices. This can help ensure that the social media team is aware of any changes that may affect their social media compliance efforts.
Tip #8: Conduct an Audit Trail
Keep a record of all your social activities (posts, engagements, etc.) for at least two years. Further, preserve any consumer communication on lending or credit terms, promotions for deposit accounts, loan application information, or public comments received about a bank's performance.
Tip #9: Capture & Archive Content
Keeping a record of all social media content can help identify potential risks and take appropriate action to mitigate them.
Capturing and archiving content can also help organizations with compliance audits and legal disputes. If an organization is audited for compliance, having a complete record of its social media activities can help demonstrate its compliance efforts.
In legal disputes, archived social media content can be used as evidence to support an organization’s position
Top 3 Social Media Compliance Tools
Statusbrew offers multiple features such as user permissions, content approval workflows, publish rules, and automated moderation, making it an essential social media compliance tool to have in social media-heavy organizations. These features help ensure that all social media content meets brand guidelines and is compliant with industry regulations.
User permissions: One of the best ways to regulate your social media publishing is to give the right people the right access permissions to the organization’s social accounts.
Statusbrew allows you to assign roles and responsibilities by limiting access to certain functions and features. This ensures that your team members only perform the tasks within the scope of their job while also reducing the risk of unauthorized access to social media content.
Publish rules: Publish rules help to monitor and regulate your publishing activities to mitigate any gaps in the content and ensure compliance with your company’s social media policies. You can create various rules in order to oversee or keep a check on what content goes out on your socials and evade errors.
When a new post is created or an existing post is updated, you can automatically trigger actions like post rejection, sending it for approval, or sending team alerts to your preferred channel based on post-level filters. This helps to ensure that all the content that doesn’t meet the brand guidelines passes through an additional level of scanning.
In addition, notifying users of the rejection reason can be especially helpful for untrained team members, allowing them to learn and understand the company's content standards and avoid making similar mistakes in the future.
In essence, Publish Rules help predict all the risks "before" the content goes out and goes viral in a negative way.
Content approval workflows: The content approval system allows team members to submit content for approval before it is published. You can set up tailored content approval workflows that involve multiple parties (team, clients, stakeholders, or legal). Set as many steps/levels as you need and assign team member(s) at each step using approval workflows.
The process begins when a team member, say, a new intern who isn’t well aware of the brand guidelines, may unintentionally create discriminatory posts. The post can be submitted for approval to a designated approver by selecting an individual user or an existing approval workflow.
Automated comment moderation: The automated comment moderation feature helps scan inappropriate or offensive content in comments and messages that may not comply with the regulatory or organizational policy. By setting up moderation rules, you can automatically hide or delete comments that may contain certain banned keywords.
Further, it can help your organization to respond to conversations timely by assigning conversations to specific team members, marking them as a priority, adding tags, and sending custom alerts.
ZeroFOX uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect and mitigate a range of social media risks, including compliance violations, cyber threats, and brand impersonation.
The tool also provides comprehensive reporting and analytics to help organizations understand and manage their social media risks, while also streamlining compliance workflows and automating many compliance-related tasks.
Smarsh is a comprehensive archiving and compliance platform that captures, archives, and monitors all forms of electronic communication, including social media. Its social media compliance tool provides real-time monitoring and archiving for social media, as well as automated workflows, analytics, and advanced search capabilities.
The tool helps organizations comply with regulatory requirements and mitigate risk by providing comprehensive records of social media activities, including posts, comments, and messages.
Social Media Compliance For Financial Institutions
#Compliance#Investment— Thomas D. Giachetti (@ThomasGiachetti) December 15, 2022
Personal Texting, Email and Social-Media -The SEC and FINRA are Aggressively Inquiring: Do You Have an Appropriate Policy and Procedure? Are you following it? email@example.com
From JPMorgan Chase to Goldman Sachs, financial institutions have started using social media activity for a variety of purposes in recent times.
Although marketing laws don't explicitly address any social media requirements for financial institutions, several existing laws & regulations specific to the finance sector treat social media as a marketing channel.
This means that all the requirements applicable to your organization's website also apply to your Twitter account.
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) provides compliance requirements for social media content. But The U.S. Security Exchange Commission (SEC), FTC, NLRB, and FFIEC also monitor social media compliance violations.
Key Social Media Regulations For Financial Institutions
Here are some key social media regulations set by FINRA. These rules & regulations protect investors from false, misleading claims, exaggerated statements, and material omissions.
Social media can be a useful tool to reach and engage with your customers, directly. Make sure you're referring to FINRA's rules when communicating with these channels 👉 https://t.co/XjxXoz13No pic.twitter.com/z0dYsbq8Ck— FINRA (@FINRA) August 12, 2020
Supervision & Reviews
FINRA states that financial firms must supervise what business-related & content-associated personas are communicated on social media, including the possibility of any recommendations being made.
Firms must have a registered principal review content for compliance issues before it gets published.
Static Content: Long terms lacking the requirement of a real-time conversation. A registered principal must approve static material before use, and sometimes may be required to be filed with FINRA.
Interactive Communication: Short terms & real-time involving a dialog with the audience. Interactive material does not require principal approval before use if it is supervised, like how firms supervise correspondence and institutional communications.
All financial firms need to comply with FINRA's communication rule. Here are some key pointers you need to keep in mind:
- All communications must be complete, balanced & fair. No material information should be omitted
- False, misleading, exaggerated, or unwarranted statements & claims are prohibited
- Communications must not predict or project performance (with certain exceptions)
- Vital information may not be buried in footnotes
- Communications must provide a balanced treatment of risks and potential benefits
Books And Records
Financial firms & their registered advocates must retain complete records of communications related to their "business as such." The "business as such" depends on the content of the communication & not the type of technology or device used to send or receive the communication.
Such records must be preserved for at least three years.
Financial firms may not link to any third-party site that contains false or misleading content.
As per FINRA's communications rule, Firms become responsible for the content on a linked third-party site if the firm has adopted or entangled with the content.
Reg Z (Truth-in-Lending Act): All commercial messages that promote credit transactions need to follow Reg Z compliance requirements.
Reg D.D. (Truth-in-Savings Act): Any commercial message that promotes deposit accounts needs to follow Reg D.D. compliance requirements.
Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act: Firms must ensure that confidential customer account data is not exposed when attempting to provide customer service or assist with products.
Social Media Compliance For Healthcare
Only 26% of hospitals and 36% of physician practices in the U.S. are active on social media.
And there's a good reason for it.
Managing social media in the healthcare & pharmaceuticals feels like swimming with sharks. Compliance with HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is complicated and intense.
But this doesn't mean you can skip it.
240% of people use the information they find about healthcare online to make decisions about their health.
The first step in protecting client privacy online is to be aware of the laws and regulations that govern the use of social media, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). 💻 #HIPAA pic.twitter.com/Uk27RigBur— PracticeofTherapy (@therapistlearn) April 20, 2023
Being familiar with key regulations and knowing how to avoid violating HIPAA rules can help you easily navigate social media.
Key Social Media Regulations For Healthcare
When communicating on social media, ensure that you never have any PHI (Protected Health Information) of patients or prospects. Here's a list of these PHI examples:
Patients' names (including nicknames)
Any dates related to individuals
Geographical information and addresses of patients
Any online patient identifier, including patient URLs, social media handles, I.P. addresses
Any important numbers associated with a patient: account numbers, phone numbers, I.D. numbers, medical record numbers, social security, etc.
Any information about a patient's vehicle, including license plate numbers, VINs, or information such as a vehicle's make, model, or color.
Photos, fingerprints, audio files, or videos.
Any other information that could reveal a patient's identity.
Here are some quick tips to prevent your practice from violating the rules of HIPAA on social media:
For medical practices, make sure to separate all physician profiles from personal social profiles
Ensure all your staff is aware of PHIs and other key information to prevent any missteps.
Before featuring any patients in any photography or videos, ensure that you have documented consent. A patient can post their picture on social media, but the company cannot post or repost the same picture without permission.
Employees may not provide any tips or advice on social media
False claims, exaggerations, or inaccurate information should be prohibited
Ensure that you're keeping records that meet the standards (detailed record trails for a minimum of 10 years) of both ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) and ACA (Affordable Care Act).
Healthcare companies and practitioners can reduce the risks of HIPAA violations by implementing clear information-sharing policies.
Social Media Compliance For Government Agencies
Government bodies have to live and die by public opinion. And people these days are openly engaging in discussions & voicing their concerns on social media.
Innovative policymakers are quickly adapting to this norm by creating highly engaging social content to rally follower support.
For any government body to capture and maintain public sentiment and engagement, embracing the new era of social media discourse is critical.
But it's harder than it looks.
All government bodies and representatives have to stay compliant with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and other public records laws. These acts enforce access & accessibility of critical information.
This means government accounts should not block any followers, be it critics, trolls, etc.
Data handling, citizen engagements, and acceptable & forbidden content are a few things that Government bodies can include in their social media policies to stay compliant.
Additionally, it's crucial to provide staff with proper training on how to use their position in your office and when they should disclose their relationship with your agency as they share content on social media.
Prioritizing Social Media Compliance For Long-Term Success!
Protecting your business from the various risks and potential consequences associated with non-compliance starts with a functional social media compliance policy.
By implementing best practices and utilizing the compliance tools listed above, organizations can manage their social media risk effectively and ensure regulatory compliance. Neglecting social media compliance can lead to severe financial and reputational damages, as well as legal and regulatory consequences.
Take a comprehensive approach to social media compliance, starting with an assessment of your current compliance policies and procedures.
Prioritize using compliance tools to streamline workflows and provide regular training to employees on social media compliance risks and best practices to prevent any losses your business might face due to non-compliance.