The Financial Conduct Authority has finalised rules on social media usage in the industry.

The Financial Conduct Authority has finalised rules on social media usage in the industry ...

The Financial Conduct Authority (
FCA) has finalised its guidance on social media for businesses within the financial promotions sector. The industry regulator has acknowledged social media is a growing and particularly powerful form of communication, and therefore is of significant value to companies. There has been some confusion for financial services providers around how to stay compliant on networks when talking about financial promotions.

Financial promotion 

The FCA makes it clear that this guidance focuses on content which is a financial promotion. Other types of content fall outside of its remit as with the example below:


FCA financial promotion guidance

source: www.fca.org.uk/

The guidance reminds readers that ‘any form of communication (including through social media) is capable of being a financial promotion, depending on whether it includes an invitation or inducement to engage in financial activity’. Social media has been deemed a
non-real time promotion, ironically, as people do not have to respond straight away to the tweet or post. 

In the course of business

The FCA has addressed the personal/corporate challenges of social media that many businesses face, i.e., that if you are talking about business and financial promotions on your personal social media accounts then these will fall under the FCA’s remit. 

Hashtag usage

‘We believe that hashtags are not an appropriate way to identify promotional content.’

The guidance states that using hashtag may mean promotional content will be placed in front of people who might not be specifically searching for information on a financial services promotion and there is potential for confusion. As a result, the FCA does not recommend using hashtags in digital media communications. At all. 

Creating and sharing content 

The FCA guidelines seem to be based around Twitter, as readers are regularly reminded about limited characters creating difficulties for financial services’ promotions.

In-depth, retweets or sharing of promotional content means the responsibility lies with the communicators and not the business as the content has been taken out of control from the company. Only the
original piece of content will fall under the FCA’s remit.

The content of the tweet and post must contain a risk warning, as with any additional content such as images, etc, if businesses cannot guarantee that the images will be automatically displayed. Companies need to ensure that their message is clear and not misleading so that who sees the content understands there is a risk surrounding the financial promotion. 

Example of a compliant tweet:


FCA complaint tweet example

The use of the #ad hashtag is now not recommended under the FCA guidelines


Images

The FCA is keen for images to provide risk information as well, to ensure that if the content is separated from the original tweet then people will not be misled about the aim of the promotion. The image itself must also be compliant. 

Banners and display advertising

While banner promotions aren’t social media, the FCA wanted to clarify how these should appear on social network sites and that the risk warning needs to be prominent. Achieving a balance between the promotion and the risk warnings is the key part here, ensuring that people have a good understanding of the risks involved.

The FCA considers the whole banner rotation, not each aspect of it, and look at the balance of the risk warning/promotional statements provided within the rotation. This can vary according to the number of banners in the rotation. Example of a compliant banner promotion:


FCA complaint banner promotion

source: www.fca.org.uk/

The above example has the risk warning in the final banner and is therefore compliant. 

Signing off social media activity

Due to the complexity surrounding social media and financial promotions, the FCA insists that a robust sign-off system is in place with a senior member of the team taking responsibility for approvals. Firms must also keep detailed records of communications and not rely on the social media channels to provide it for them. This is due to people being able to delete tweets and posts during and after conversations. 

Signposting

Firms need to ensure that their communications are clear, fair and not misleading, whoever ends up reading them. Signposting to products and services via links is appropriate as long as the promotion is compliant.

Below is an example compliant tweet signposting to more content about the promotion:


FCA example complaint tweet signposting

source: www.fca.org.uk/

A non-compliant tweet signposting to more content:


FCA non-complaint tweet signposting

source: www.fca.org.uk/


Summary

The FCA warns that the character limits of social media networks, i.e. Twitter, cannot be used as an excuse for non-compliant content for financial promotions.

Don’t forget that posts and tweets that aren’t financial promotions do not come under the FCA’s remit. The guidance above depends on the content you choose to post. And this is social media; businesses should be where their customers are and presenting them with information that they want to engage with. It might not necessarily be the best place for financial promotions in the first place. In fact, most people will go to
Google to research information about finance.

Consider the content in the social media space and your audience’s wants and needs here before posting.

It’s great to see the FCA recognise the importance of social media in today’s culture and clarify some of the murkier parts of using networks that have been long questioned by financial services marketers, particularly around financial promotions.

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