Financial regulator issues social media guidance

Financial services firms promoting products and services using social media should think seriously about dropping Twitter and Facebook ads from their channel mix if their space limitations present compliance issues, according to the industry’s regulator. 

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Financial regulator the FCA has issued social media guidance.

In guidance about using social media for marketing purposes issued today (6 August), the Financial Conduct Authority says firms should adopt a “media neutral” approach to ensure their customers are “presented with certain minimum information”.

The banks, insurers and investment firms it regulates should therefore consider “the appropriateness of character-limited media as a means of promoting complex features of financial products and services”, it adds. 

The guidance has been produced to address the concerns of many marketers in the industry over the use of social media in promotions for products that are often required to have complicated and lengthy terms and conditions and risk warnings.

The FCA insists it does not want to prevent the use of “powerful channels” that can be of “significant value” to the brands it regulates but does want to ensure social media channels remain “fair, clear and not misleading”.

To this end, it has offered financial services firms four key pieces of advice to ensure compliance with the statutory rules on promotions.

  • Investment product promotions on Twitter should include #ad to ensure firms meet the specific requirement that investment product promotions must be clearly identified as such.
  • Each communication should be considered individually and that they comply with relevant rules.
  • Consider inserting images into tweets to convey risk warnings or other required statements. However, it warns that where risk warnings are required they cannot appear solely in tweets.
  • Consider image advertising instead of characters. 

ISBA welcomed what it describes as the “useful” guidance but did express caution the media neutral principle “might not be easily applicable across various channels available to advertisers.”

Ian Twinn, ISBA’s director of public affairs, adds: “While advertisers are likely to endorse the FCA’s approach, some thought does need to be given to the media neutrality principle if financial service advertisers are to adopt using Twitter and other social media effectively.”

The FCA is consulting on changes to the 2010 guidance produced by its predecessor the Financial Services Authority. The consultation ends 6 November. 

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