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The Benefits of Social Media Compliance

By: Sarah Carter

Social media is an excellent communications medium for community banks wanting to engage their clients on a more personal level. An online resource allows customers to “talk” to bankers, stay up-to-date on their accounts and match their personal needs with what their local banks are offering. Despite the benefits, many banks have yet to embrace social media, remaining wary of a medium that has no native controls for security or compliance. Ensuring that social media complies with current regulations can be daunting, but the upside is that working toward it provides key benefits.

Regardless of size, banks need to know what sort of content both traverses their networks and represents their image in the public eye. Using technology designed to support unified communications platforms allows for the creation of robust content filters applicable to all types of communications (email, IM, social media, Skype). Banks can create a customized lexicon of key words and search terms specific to their businesses. As data runs through these filters, questionable content will be quarantined until approved by a compliance officer and then passed on to the outside world.

Traditional security measures, such as spam filters and virus software, are often challenged by the latest communication tools, many of which use evasive techniques such as port hopping, protocol tunneling and encryption to get around barriers. Adding to the threat of malware, viruses, Trojans and other types of external attacks, banks have little visibility into what is leaving their networks from the inside. Ultimately, they are responsible for the information they disseminate, even unknowingly.

Online compliance efforts guide banks toward another key benefit — guaranteeing that online customer interaction will be safe, consistent and from trusted sources. The ability to reach multiple customers through an online forum greatly increases a bank’s productivity and opportunities. Releasing the latest CD rates can result in immediate requests for information in an interactive forum, whereas sending a mailer or putting signs in the bank window captures only the attention of those who notice. Ensuring that the release of those rates is done in accordance with best practices and includes the necessary disclaimers will have already been handled by the technology.

Using the analytics functionality of this same technology, banks are able to aggregate the communications data to get a visual picture of where the most activity is taking place — and what it relates to. Capturing a stream of communications related to unapproved data disclosure allows the bank to react quickly, removing the communication from its source and immediately addressing the issue internally. Similarly, a trending topic may show that a group of customers is talking about homes for sale in the neighborhood, prompting the bank to reach out to them specifically with the latest loan rates.

Effectively controlling content is just the beginning. All business conversations need to be securely archived, and social media is no exception. Unlike email, in which all messages are driven through a designated email server, social media can be easily accessed from outside the corporate network. Social media users tend to have multiple online identities and it is important to be able to recognize individual bank employees in social media conversations, control and monitor their activities, and identify them in archived communications. To do so, banks must identify their numerous social media pseudonyms and connect those to their corporate identities, to ensure that when discovery is required, it is possible to report on all the activities of an individual user. Having this information readily available can save the bank significant time, money and complications.

By the time the technology and procedures have been implemented to satisfy regulatory demands for the use of social media, it is easy to see that the bank has a wealth of information potentially at its fingertips: reaction to content posted by advisers; interaction from customers looking for the best saving rate; and potential engagement with a company looking for a new bank to its multimillion dollar business. By leveraging this information and adding the ability to inject pre-approved content from other departments into the communications stream, social media compliance is no longer a regulatory chore and expense, but a business enabler that helps the bank grow its authenticity of voice, customer satisfaction and market share. Compliance then truly becomes a benefit to the business.

Sarah Carter is vice president of marketing at Actiance, a provider of social media, unified communications and Web compliance products.

Copyright (c) March 2012 by BankNews Media