A Marketing Compliance Social Alliance

By Sarah Oliver, CRCM

What happens when marketing and compliance professionals social-ize?

Social media and compliance are not mutually exclusive concepts. I am a compliance professional and I fully support “social” banking. This support is a direct result of evolution in technology and the inevitability of growing consumer expectations. Younger generations are becoming increasingly social, especially millennials and the up and coming Generation Z (post-millennial). According to the U.S. Census Bureau in an article by Richard Fry of the Pew Research Center, “Millennials have surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living generation.”

Admittedly, several years ago, when I was asked to be the compliance liaison for a large bank entering the social realm, it was a daunting notion. One of my favorite quotes is by a man named Herbert Spencer who describes ignorance as “contempt prior to investigation.” Alas, unfamiliar territory is scary, especially to risk professionals, such as compliance officers, whose first thought is something along the lines of “regulatory nightmare.” Nonetheless, the last half decade has shown (proven) that not only can banks be social and cool; they can do so while remaining compliant.

Let’s use Oklahoma’s Citizens Bank of Edmond (CBE) Facebook page as an example (no affiliation). In addition to posts about special events such as paper shredding, community announcements, and career opportunities, CBE shares information necessary to attend or participate in the monthly seasonal festival it hosts in downtown Edmond. Not only is this festival hugely popular as it benefits local schools and nonprofits, it also showcases local musicians and restaurants, features pop-up shops and food trucks, and generally provides support to Edmond’s small businesses. CBE’s Facebook page also showcases employees’ participation in fundraising, cash mobs—and it personally congratulates individuals and businesses on local awards and honors. It is human nature to want to feel good; and thus CBE shares posts that do just that, in addition to supporting numerous impeccable causes.

Before we move on, let’s pause to review what isn’t being discussed in the typical day’s feed: products and services. 

Read that sentence again; it’s important. Trust me, Compliance will love this. Okay, let’s keep moving.

The world today is an electronic web in which consumers expect to be kept in the loop with their families, friends, and their providers (we are providers). Social media is interactive, and when used correctly can foster relationships, innovation, and information sharing. Its use can range from informal to service-oriented to rapid need-to-know communications during emergencies. For example, just minutes after a tornado blows through town, a community bank can start outreach and offer its resources through its social platforms. Newspapers and billboards do not afford such speed. Twitter and Facebook do.

Let’s now discuss getting the buy-in and support needed from Compliance (stop groaning, keep an open mind, and be nice!). First, don’t tell Compliance on a Friday afternoon at 3:00 that you intend a roll out on social media sites on Monday and that you need them to approve this “by the end of day,” or worse “over the weekend” (we really hate that). If your bank is considering going social all relevant parties must have a seat at the planning table. This often includes Compliance, as well as Marketing, IT, HR, and Legal.

Start at strategy. Make sure your compliance officer knows that you know your social platforms should not typically be used for marketing products and services. This mitigates the vast majority of regulatory risk and that is music to Compliance’s ear. Create a shared vision, but remain flexible. Policy, content, archiving, privacy, platforms, training, and resources are some of the things that should be deliberated before going live. This may involve a bit of patience on the part of marketing. Let us not forget, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, take the time to get it right. Let Compliance work on the risk assessment… (I couldn’t resist, but seriously). Obviously as with any new process, kinks or unintended consequences may surface, but having the infrastructure in place (and positive relations with your key players) will ensure these are addressed swiftly, with all the necessary background and contextual knowledge.  Proper groundwork and effective communications support the initial, and the future success of your social endeavors.

To recap, the point of social is not to market your wares. It’s social media, not sales media. The point of being social is to humanize your brand and connect. It’s about relationships. It is interactive, with communication flowing two (or twenty) ways. It’s a platform for likeminded people and businesses to share ideas within a community.  Think collaboration and goodwill. Speak with people; not at people. Engage, share your story. Pictures and videos are good. Loan rates are bad. Use social to build and reinforce character. And be kind to your compliance officer. After all, would you really want their job?

 Sarah Oliver, CRCM, is vice president and compliance testing manager at Bank of North Carolina, which is headquartered in High Point, NC. Email: [email protected].