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Social responsibility

Networking tools can be a good means of boosting business but take heed that FSA rules on financial promotions apply

Ian Pascal
Ian Pascal

Regular readers may remember my column on social media back in November. I do not believe social networking tools can replace other ways of communicating with clients but, used sensibly, they are a good way of staying in touch with industry developments, raising your profile and driving traffic to your website.

My caveats related to the proper use of these technologies. Do not say anything you might regret later as these are public forums, reinforce your expertise rather than push for sales too aggressively in your communications and always remember the financial promotions rules if you are recommending products or services.

I stand by these comments today. More important, however, on the regulatory aspect, the FSA has just issued the results of its review into the media channels that firms use to com-municate financial promotions to customers and have also taken a very pragmatic approach.

In its report, the FSA confirms that financial promotion regulation is media-neutral. This means that applying the rules to financial promotions through social media is no different to those made using any other medium. The rules you are familiar with still apply.

Throughout the review, the FSA identifies examples of good – and poor – practice, including the failure to include risk warnings in financial promotions. If in doubt, communications must always be “fair, clear and not misleading”.

The findings specific to social networking include a warning that as this is a fast-moving medium, regular reviews may be needed to ensure information put out via these channels is up to date and that consideration may need to be made whether this channel is suitable for the type of com-munication desired.

What all this adds up to is business as usual for those of us using social media responsibly. Provided you remember the financial promotion rules, there is nothing stopping you from using social media to help grow your business.

LinkedIn and Twitter are still probably the best places to start while the discussion boards at www.ifalife.com are a good place to see how others are using such tools to expand their networks.

What works? Well, to an extent, it is horses for courses. Emerging markets are one of our strongest areas at Barings, so, for us, setting up a discussion group on LinkedIn (Emerging Markets: Investment Community for Global Investors) where investors can access our latest thinking on emerging markets and ask questions was a natural step.

If there is an area of the market you specialise in, this could be a good way for you to expand your network and reinforce your reputation in that area.

Our experience with Twitter is that it is about timeliness and accessibility. If you are going to comment on events such as the recent Budget, your comments need to be timely. If you have something pertinent to say, being able to share it that day or, at the latest, by the following morning, is important if you want to maximise its impact.

Turning to accessibility, we live in a visual age. For many customers, a short video is much more digestible than a long explanation of your point in print. Short video reaction pieces, posted to Youtube then publicised via Twitter, have proved very positive for us.

Portable video recorders such as flipcams are very inexpensive these days and recording a short video can be simplicity itself – provided, of course, that you are comfortable with new technology.

Ian Pascal is head of marketing and communications at Baring Asset Management

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