As of April 1, the Financial Services Authority has been replaced by two new bodies, the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA), which regulates the operations of financial organisations, and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which monitors how financial organisations treat consumers.

As far as the FCA is concerned, whether financial organisations choose to communicate over social media channels or in print, the rules remain the same.

The communication must be clear, fair and not misleading, regardless of which channel the message is broadcast over.

The FCA has already stated its intention to monitor what financial organisations are getting up to on social media, and it uses Twitter itself.

So, with the FCA turning more of its focus to the use of social media by financial organisations, how can these organisations ensure that their use of social media stays within the regulations, while still providing an engaging experience for consumers?

Use strict social media guidelines 

Employees need to know what they can and can’t do over social media. Guidelines should spell out the regulations the organisation has to work within, and lay out company policy on social media (such as a description of responsibilities, tone of voice and editorial guidelines).

They should be used in training and be easily accessible. 

Have a clear escalation process

If something goes wrong, the team needs to know what issues to prioritise, where to send problems, and who to wake up at 3am if need be (if the Twitter account is hacked, for example). 

Manage expectations

First, agree what social media channels will be used, how many accounts will need to be set up, and what they’ll be used for. Some banks, like HSBC, have several Twitter accounts (in HSBC’s case it has a customer service, business banking, careers and press account). 

Followers need to know what to expect from the account, and when to expect a response from staff (especially on customer service accounts).

Spell out the house rules

Financial organisations are used to communicating with customers via more formal methods of communication. As we know, the informality of social media can lead people to say and do things that they wouldn’t normally put in a letter to the bank.

It may sound obvious, but having a clearly sign-posted set of community standards can guide people on what will and won’t be tolerated on the brand’s page. 

Will posting a sweary rant get their Facebook comment deleted? Will the social media manager be able to solve their problem after a couple of tweets? Information and guidance can greatly benefit the community, and make it a more harmonious place for everyone.

Find the brand’s social voice 

Many financial organisations are used to communicating in dry, corporate language. A more informal, engaging voice might be more appropriate for social media.

The Metro Bank Twitter account has a very upbeat, conversational style, while savings and investments company, Standard Life, has a good mix of information and engagement.

Developing a friendly, approachable tone on social channels can make the organisation appear more approachable, and more human.

Have a clear engagement strategy

It’s likely that the financial organisation will use different social media channels to reach certain audiences, or even have several accounts in specific channels to connect to a particular audience.

For example, students looking at joining a graduate recruitment scheme may want to visit a page like Barclays Graduates on Facebook, while a customer after general information would visit the main BarclaysUK Facebook page.

These different pages will need distinct engagement strategies.

Plan content and provide adequate resource 

Social media pages aren’t meant to be mini-websites. They don’t exist just for a brand to grab their name before a cyber-squatter moves in, only to post a few marketing messages on the page a couple of times a year.

Financial organisations can use social media to engage their audiences, using content that provokes discussion and comment. All this takes resource. 

Moderate, but allow criticism 

Left un-moderated, Facebook pages (and let’s not forget YouTube channels), especially those of big financial brands, can quickly fill up with spam, abusive language and ill feeling. No one wants to become part of a community which endorses that kind of behaviour. Moderating social media is important to avoid damaging a brand’s reputation. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean deleting Facebook comments of people with genuine complaints or critical opinions. Indeed, if social is linked correctly to customer service and product development, these can give brands the opportunity to turn a negative customer experience into a positive one. 

For more information on how financial organisations can use social media, you can download eModeration’s free whitepaper: Managing social media engagement for financial organisations.

Tamara Littleton

Published 30 April, 2013 by Tamara Littleton

Tamara is CEO and founder of social media agency The Social Element and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (3)


Phliip Scotcher

Some great points here Tamara. A coupe of points I’d add to this also being aware of the cross market regulatory bodies if you’re operating in multiple markets.

Markets like the US have more regulation surrounding FS. It gets particularly interesting for the likes of an asset management firm trading out of the US into South America or Asia.

I’d also recommend being careful in the publication of actual data.

Obviously, digital leaves a permanent record and unless the organisation has the editorial control to update the data as fast as the market is changing it can be perceived to be misleading.

about 5 years ago


, Engaging Networks

Anybody interested in this would do well to have a look at the #nicsfight Twitter storm that erupted against Friends Life. Their response the whole way through is a classic 'how not to do it' guide for Financial Institutions.

about 5 years ago

Tamara Littleton

Tamara Littleton, CEO at The Social Element

@Philip: Good point about the cross-market regulatory bodies. We always recommend taking legal advice in regulated markets before deciding on a social strategy.

And Anonymous – thanks for commenting; the Friends Life information was a great example of how social and traditional media come together to change company opinion.

about 5 years ago

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