I have a few clients and prospects in highly regulated industries. Many of them have similar concerns about Social Media. The regulations imposed in the financial, healthcare or legal field would give anyone cause to be cautious about dipping their toe in the social waters. It’s for this reason however that many firms decide to forego Social Media all together, rather than approach the subject at all. This is unfortunate, in my opinion. I feel that avoiding the subject entirely closes these organizations off from the enormous possibility that these tools provide, if used creatively. I think that many of these organizations either lack the necessary information or have resorted to looking at all social media with blinders on, giving them a form of tunnel vision.
I’d like to explore the intersection of the highly regulated industries and social media.
Listening -vs- Talking
The distinction between Social sites as a source of research and as a source of liability is perhaps the biggest indicator that many of these industries have tunnel vision. Ask someone in Finance what they think of Twitter. They might respond with “it’s just mindless chatter.” They’ll probably claim they have no place being there because they can be held liable if what they say is construed as giving out advice. What many don’t think about is the incredible source of information that Twitter can be for industry news, client news, and finding leads for new business. Think about how trends on Twitter about a brand can impact stock prices, think about global events found out in real time. People are chatting about all sorts of things on Twitter. The regulations may dictate what you can post but in most cases not what you are listening to.
I want to be clear though: even in highly regulated industries you can post things online. In the legal field, many firms shy away from YouTube for marketing. They’ll probably roll their eyes and say, it’s just stupid videos and our clients aren’t going to hire a law firm off of YouTube and it’s just a massive waste of time. Time is a big thing for lawyers as they work in billable hours. So of course the prospect of “wasting” time on YouTube seems legitimate. The same issue comes up regarding the issue of what can be misconstrued to be advice. So forget about even toeing the line. Get creative.
Post a video about what it’s like to work at the firm
Post a video about how your mail room is doing something special
Post a video of the Top Partners talking about why they are passionate about the type of law they practice.
Post a video of a young associate giving a success story.
Post a video of a senior associate talking about a time when something went wrong but got fixed. Then what he/she learned.
Highlight employees. Show the admin that can type the most words per minute crushing it!
None of these suggestions would in any way be construed as legal advice. Would it give people a sense of what the firm is like? Absolutely. Would it make someone feel more comfortable calling the firm? Probably.
There’s obviously a delicate balance when it comes to highly regulated industries. You don’t want to push the envelope too much and put your business in jeopardy. What you do want to do is think about the bigger picture and find creative ways to leverage these new tools. Listening is a no brainer, there’s so much information out there. Creating content is something I think is worthwhile for nearly any business, regulated or not, you may just need to be a little creative.
What starts online can close offline. Remember that.
Much of the social landscape comes down to relationships; this means commenting on other people’s blogs, retweeting, sharing videos, etc. It might seem like a waste of time. It’s not. Being genuinely interested in other people, their work and how you can be of value to them is a tenant of being successful, not just in business, but in life. While your industry might be regulated, your target audience and clients may not be. It is essential to meet them on their turf and strengthen the bonds you have and create relationships where they are missing. This can happen on LinkedIn, Twitter and even in the comments section of a prospects blog. More and more people are getting involved in publishing their own content. Listen to what they are saying and use it as the basis to form a relationship and not just so you can sell them something.
Heavily regulated industries often worry about what’s put out there on Twitter or Facebook and for good reason. But eliminating it all together is a mistake and quite honestly futile. Most people have a mobile phone capable of getting to the social web. Instead of buried your heads in the sand and pretending these tools don’t exist or apply to you, plan your strategy, create guidelines and run full speed into it.