Can financial firms cope with social media?

by David Spark on July 21, 2009

This article is part of a road show presentation series I’m doing in Toronto for Intertainment Media, owners of Itibiti Systems. This post has been reprinted on the Intertainment Media blog.

Businessman discussing paperwork with couple

Today was my first day of a week long road show I’m doing in Toronto where I’m speaking at various companies about social media and specifically how they can grow their industry voice with social media and make money from it.

You can read the full article and other pertinent information here: “14 Successful Techniques for Building Your Voice with Social Media.”

My first presentation was at Raymond James Ltd., a North American investment firm. During and after my presentation, I got some of the standard questions such as “Who has time for this?” and “What about privacy?” But we also talked about the incredibly tricky situation social media presents to Raymond James and other financial firms. They face such a mountain of regulatory issues that they don’t even both engaging in social media.

I’m not a lawyer, nor an SEC commissioner, but we got to discussing the issue and there was some consensus that being able to blog online or engage in any kind of social media discussion would require creating a dividing line of what content you offer up for free that can be unregulated and what content do you charge for that is regulated.

Advice vs. information and opinion

This is the initial broadly agreed upon dividing point. Advice is actionable, regulated, and can potentially be liable. There are compliance issues with regard to communicating with customers. The question is can information and opinion that is given out to anyone whether they’re a customer or not, avoid being held to the same standards? It’s not actionable advice.

Attending the session were also some members of CHF Investor Relations. After speaking with them and some employees at Raymond James, I realized they run into many of the same customer service problems that other companies must contend with. For example, when certain investment news hits, the financial discussion boards and blogosphere are all abuzz. In turn, they get calls from customers asking their opinion on a certain story or issue. If the opinion is being communicated over the phone, why not just take that same opinion and write it up in a blog? Such a move will provide two valuable benefits:

1. Increase discoverability – If people are calling you about a certain issue, chances are pretty high they’re also typing that issue into a search query. If you provide your opinion on the matter, that opinion will start appearing in natural searches. Being successfully discovered is all about timing. If people are calling you about a matter at 12pm on a Monday, make sure you get your opinion out within the next hour or two. Don’t wait until Thursday next week. Your audience will have moved on by then.

2. Ease customer service – If you’re getting hammered with people asking the same question, it would be a lot easier on your entire staff if you just pointed everyone to the same piece. It will cut down customer service hours dramatically.

Here are a couple of good follow up articles:

Top 12 financial advisors using social media – “The New Rules of Investing” blog compiled its list of top 12 investors taking advantage of social media plus links to all their social media sites (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.)

Financial Firms Turn to Social Media to Attract New Gen X, Y Clients – Story from Wall Street and Technology about how some firms are taking the leap into social media, most notably Wells Fargo and Zecco, to attract new customers that are going to inherit the assets from their current customers.

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