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Getting social media: Are nationals and networks still behind the times?


Devils and dinosaurs

It may have taken half a decade but finally it seems that almost without exception all the big adviser distributors have now at least begun some level of foreplay with the ‘devil’ that is social media.

Just two weeks ago Tenet announced it has become the latest major adviser network to have really embraced the social media world; rolling out an updated website adorned with interactive sharing buttons already bearing fruit across some of the biggest social media platforms. Personal Touch and Sesame likewise made significant headway since their entrance into the twitterati and associated social forums last year.

In stark contrast to the positive news that most can report at a corporate level, others however have seen less impressive beginnings, particularly on the more emotive topic of their members’ social media policy. Last week saw network Financial Ltd attracting headlines for the wrong reasons. Keen to prevent further high profile member losses, the network agreed to reverse its formerly harsh members’ social media policy and lift a ban on tweeting.

This followed a similar event last September when Positive Solutions felt its wrist slapped for an ‘anti-social’ offence; as industry guru Philip Calvert of IFALife accused the national of ‘behaving like a dinosaur’ in its outdated and backward stance on all things social media. A hastily announced review of the offending social media policy ensued.


Underpinning the confusion across the various adviser organisations is the interpretation and implementation of FSA rules announced last year which state ”any communications that go beyond image advertising must comply with financial promotion rules”. The regulator also said that before using new media, firms should consider whether risk information can be prominently displayed; clearly an issue for limited update platforms like Twitter with a 140-character limit.


As a consequence of this, the various networks and nationals that have issued formal social media policies to their members have shown some significant diversities of opinion on just how to educate and enforce their advisers.  

The star of social media success at corporate level, Openwork, has probably one of the most light-touch policies amongst those we reviewed, with an emphasis on education about social media usage generally but very little about any detailed compliance reviews or potential penalties for offenders. Personal Touch and Tenet have similar policies, with both providing good member support, events and resources to educate members, but the latter taking a more penal stance in outlining what actions would be taken for breaches. Like some of the smaller players, True Potential, interestingly, does not have a social media policy for members yet but claims it is ‘aware something is needed’.


Hares and tortoises

The latest Moneypenny social index of social media results for the main nationals and networks has shown some fascinating new trends emerging at corporate level.  

Having been the first to join Twitter back in 2010, Openwork continues to dominate results across the board with impressive growth in followers, likes and overall social media awareness. Its early adoption of social media and attentive commitment has put it well ahead of the game compared to competitors. Alongside Positive Solutions, it has used video content successfully on the Youtube platform.


Whilst most social media players have broad adoption of the three main platforms – Twitter, Linked-in and Facebook – there are some notable anomalies. Simply Biz is rather an oddity, with no Facebook presence and despite absolutely no tweets, a continued growth in twitter followers.  

Sesame and Tenet appear to do very well on Linked-in, seen as the most effective social media platform for recruitment and pure business networking, but this may be reflective of its larger comparative scale. 

Having amended account names on twitter, Positive Solutions (now @pos_sol) appears to have lost about 200 followers in the past six months but no doubt will recoup these in time.  The introduction of its new Facebook page is paying dividends, with statistics showing early growth.

As with social media itself, this research is expanding rapidly, with several new entrants joining the list of active participants.

Nicola Mitchell is managing director of Mitchell Moneypenny



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There are 13 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. I’m a strong advocate of advice firms using social media in a sensible and targetted way, but as much as I agree with most of this article, the illustrative graphs are highly misleading.

    Effective Social Media use is about engagement with audiences. All that’s shown here is quantitative analysis of numbers without any contextual qualitative statistics.

    No communications activity exists in a vacuum, and it’s one sided to concentrate solely on volume rather than effectiveness.

  2. Jim Gillespie 31st May 2013 at 1:41 pm

    The compliance department of network’s haven’t earned the nickname “business prevention unit” for no good reason.

    network members are so restricted and curtailed with what we can do and the ludicrous timescale from submitting a request to the business prevention unit to them actually approving it, means you news is way out of date and not worth posting!

  3. Got to agree with anon 1.41pm that the compliance departments are getting crazy with their demands. No consistency and no common sense. They judge everybody by the lowest common denominator and work on the basis of ‘what will the FCA not slap us for’. You cannot even quote facts because it might be seen as sensationalist.

    I was under the impression that advertising and editorials were there to inform and motivation for somebody to take action to fix a problem. In that sense regulations and compliance are failing the UK public.

    As long as these type of people live in fear social media will not work for the financial service industry. Saying that I do tweet and use FB to raise awareness of issues and choose to run the risk of the man with the tick box mentality.

  4. Derek Bradley ceo Panacea Adviser 31st May 2013 at 3:27 pm

    A great piece on the subject.

    Financial advisers that create content for social media successfully have created better client relationships and more sales opportunities.

    Social media is generally not embarked upon for the following reasons:

    It’s too complicated – I don’t understand social media
    I don’t know where to start
    I have Compliance constraints
    I don’t have the time
    I don’t know what to write
    I don’t have anyone to help me with this

    Without sounding too much like a plug, we developed Panacea Social stream to deal with this problem very easily, it can overcome all of these objections, by providing training, education, strategy and content to enable advisers to actively engage with clients and potential clients with a regular communication stream, consistent updates and relevant news.

    If you want to know more follow this link:, we think that it is a quantum leap in SM engagement, our case studies would confirm this too.

  5. Has this advert been approved??
    I see those mentioned in “glowing terms” are clients and those slated wouldnt appear to be.

    Regulation in this area may not reflect the massive changes in how people and businesses interact and I suspect whilst the promotion rules apply Twitter use for financial promotions will be a risky thing to do – though I am sure Mitchell Moneypenny will pay any fines that result due to misleading advertising for those clients they promote on their website.

  6. Compliance Doctor 31st May 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Is this the same Mr Anon all the way through? Social Media can be used quite effectively by financial services and some are using it very effectively.

    If you intend to use Social Media purely as an advertising platform then by virtue of how it works you will be ignored. When dealing with SM you have to have a planned and measured campaign (which is easier than you may think) and if you tried selling a product in 140 characters then you deserve everything the regulator can throw at you.

    Despite some comments to the contrary, the regulator has applied its financial promotion rules in a media-neutral way, focusing on the content of the promotion rather than the medium used to communicate it. It will be looking to see whether there is an “invitation or inducement to engage in investment activity”, rather than the method of communication.

    If you do anything other than image advertising for your firm then it falls under the fin prom rules. However, there are an awful lot of things you can do to grow your followers, provide meaningful information to them and show that you are a specialist worth listening to.

    Yes, it is sadly true that a lot of compliance departments are not fully aware of how social media works or precisely what the rules are when it comes to the “New Media”. If you join Panacea Adviser (free membership) you can get an Ebook that is provided FOC to all, or, if you wish to remain anonymous but it on Amazon at £3.06 (search B00CLD7CIW). This helps explain how SM can be used.

    Networks have to try an control the activities of their ARs with the limited resources that they have, although there are tools available for them to have all social media and emails monitored in and out of their network (I can help provide details of providers) and even filter out any words they consider inappropriate to be used. The Americans have brought in some common sense rules around this area which follow our regulators stance, but the distinction is different as they originally provided rules on advertisements and not our definition of “Financial Promotions”.

    The one thing I would say is that it is really simple to use SM properly and the Social Stream offered by Panacea takes away all the hassle on content, whilst providing cutting edge techniques to get you promoted in your SM platforms and build your blog with helpful and informative generic articles.

  7. Classic commentary from ‘Compliance’ Doctor there…5 pages long! 🙂

  8. The term ‘social media’ causes so many problems, many of which the complaince doctor talks about.

    Social media is like a huge networking party happening 24/7. If you enter a networking session and the first thing you do is try to sell your services then you’re wasting your time. If you try to develop relationships that might result in business, then you will get someone, in time.

  9. You have to love the double negative from Anonymous | 31 May 2013 1:41 pm

    Do you think there may be a reason why you can’t get anything through Compliance?

  10. Social media – the King’s new clothes.

  11. @ Norm de Plume

    How right you are. I too am pleased to count myself as a dinosaur as regards this topic.

    I have canvassed my clients and done as much research as is relevant for a small firm.


    Very few of my clients (less than 5%) use Social media at all.

    In my environment it seems that Social Media is for (shall we say) the less serious clients. It seems to be the equivalent to Hello Magazine – and I know that none of my clients read that!
    I must therefore conclude that if social media works at all (and I have no reason to believe it doesn’t) then in the main it works for the less well-off and the serious money really doesn’t come via this channel.

    I guess if you get your business ‘off the street’; and are prepared to take on clients without solid introduction and validation then perhaps social media – shall we call it S&M – for I see much in common – will suffice

  12. While your generalisations about social media are grossly inaccurate, I’m glad you’ve come to that conclusion Harry. I’d rather have the exclsivity of using these platforms for myself, than to experience a flood of competitors.

    Everyone else should stick to networking events & word of mouth where every introduction is a golden egg.

  13. Notwithstanding all the enthusiasm for this topic and the undeniable fact that I am in a minority, it would seem that my view is not so off the mark after all. Recent research seems to not entirely disagree with me:
    “Facebook’s popularity is slumping in the UK as users become fed up with being bombarded with advertising, a YouGov survey has revealed.
    In a report examining social media use among web-savvy Brits, the market research firm found a 9 per cent drop in Facebook usage since April 2012. Exactly one-fifth ditched the social network because they were nervous their personal info would be handed over to third parties.
    The report also suggested that advertising on Facebook isn’t very successful, with just one in 20 users having clicked on an ad. Ten per cent are adamant that the corporate messages propagated by Zuckerberg’s social advertising network aren’t relevant to them.
    YouGov research director James McCoy said: “This report shows that reaching potential customers through social media is rather different from doing so through traditional media channels”

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