Social Media Compliance in the Fortune 100

May 12, 2015

As marketing teams find success building corporate social media programs– they are unintentionally creating risks for their peers in the Compliance department.  The average Fortune 100 has over 320 branded social accounts with over 200,000 followers and 1500 employee participants.  The firm is responsible for thousands of daily posts on hundreds of accounts, hosted on multiple social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and others.   The end result is that the Compliance team must track a proliferation of messages from an often changing variety of sources, which would present a challenge for any team.

To understand how Compliance teams are functioning in this difficult environment, we scanned the content posted to over 32,000 social media accounts of Fortune 100 firms and analyzed that content for compliance incidents relating to regulations with social media provisions (e.g. FINRA, FFIEC, SEC, FTC, FDA, etc.).  The full results of that analysis are published in our new Fortune 100 Compliance Report.  Here are a few highlights of what we found:

  • The average firm suffered from a total of 69 unmoderated compliance incidents during our 12-month research window. These incidents went virtually unnoticed by internal compliance staff since they were posted and not removed from public social media pages during the research window.

  • Financial Services firms accounted for the largest incident volume, with over 5,000 incidents total and on average over 250 incidents per firm.  This finding is unsurprising considering that financial service firms are well-represented in the Fortune 100 (21 firms), have shown strong social media adoption, and are subject to the most stringent social media communication standards.

  • Nine different U.S. regulatory standards triggered incidents.  Organizations face a complex variety of regulations, as highlighted by the fact that during the period of this study compliance violations were triggered by FINRA Retail Communications, FFIEC / Regulation Z, FTC Sweepstakes, and SEC Regulation FD, and FDA Adverse Drug Experience, among others.

  • Best practice social media compliance controls are inconsistently enforced. Only 47% of Brand posts were made via Marketing and Content Publishing applications.  Beyond audience engagement, publishing applications can include workflow that warns employees of compliance problems and public relations mistakes prior to posting.

Scale and Complexity of Social Media
Exemplified by these and other findings, the scale and complexity of social media make compliance policy, training, supervision, and even records retention more difficult than for other communications channels such as print, press, email, and others.   Simply identifying the social accounts that need to be supervised is itself a major challenge for large organizations. In order to keep pace with the needs of the business to grow social media, Compliance teams will need to consider more dynamic, automated processes that fit the dynamic nature of the media.

For more insights into social media compliance challenges, a taxonomy of common violations, real-world examples, and steps that you can take to better manage social media compliance – download the full report.