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How networks are policing your social media use

Social media platforms, which have clearly been a disruptive influence across a range of industries, represent both an enormous opportunity and a major challenge for financial adviser firms.

While the marketing imperative to tap into the growing audience using such platforms is strong, broadly-applied rules imposed by the regulator in relation to financial promotions can pose a compliance headache.

The 140-character limit on Twitter, for example, does not give much scope for the caveats and disclaimers that firms are obliged to include with any promotion in order to ensure clients are not misled. The phrase “past performance is not a guide to future returns” alone takes up 41 characters - more than a third of the maximum.

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Networks are particular on edge about social media use. Financial Ltd, for example, previously operated a complete ban on Twitter use, but was forced to lift this in May of this year amid a member backlash.

One adviser, Matthew Walne, actually left the firm primarily because of its stance on social media use to set up his own firm, Santorini Financial Planning.

So how can networks reduce or remove the risks of falling foul of the regulator without impinging on member freedom to promote themselves in the social media age?

In FTAdviser’s Guide to Social Media, to be published later today and on which advisers can gain 60 CPD minutes, three networks - Sesame, Openwork and Tenet - outlined their policy on how members are monitored.

In general, advisers can expect to have their dialogue and posts through social media platforms such as Twitter to be monitored on an ongoing basis by compliance departments, while some may have to submit posts for approval for at least a period of time to prove they are safe.

Stephen Gazard, managing director of Sesame Bankhall Group, said advisers should expect their online dialogue to be checked by their network.

If social media is being used for the purpose of making financial promotions then Mr Gazard said it should be subject to the same approvals process, with relevant systems and controls, as apply to any other forms of financial promotion.

Helen Turner, distribution and development director of Tenet, said new profiles would need approval by the network but added some networks will insist on approval for each and every post.

Ms Turner said: “The Tenet policy is to allow appointed representatives to post without the need for approval once 10 consecutive posts have been approved. Spot checks are then done to ensure compliance.”

Ms Turner said Tenet expected advisers to monitor staff use by having an online presence themselves. To keep a closer eye on things, she recommended the use of online software such as tweetdeck or hootsuite where you can monitor multiple accounts simultaneously.

Ms Turner said: “While it is important to trust your staff it can never hurt to keep an eye on what they are doing on social media and ensuring that they are delivering the right messages for your company.