Use Twitter to Brush Up On a Second Language

Many moons ago, I spent a wonderful semester in Sevilla, Spain studying Spanish...among other things.  Since then, I have struggled to keep and expand my aptitude for the Spanish language.  Very recently, it dawned on me that I should use Twitter to help me in my quest (like the tie to the photo!).   
Here's how:

1.  Identify accounts tweeting in your language of choice (search the language to find them).

2.  Add a few of the accounts tweeting in your language of choice to your favorite Twitter list so that your Twitter stream is sprinkled with tweets in the language you hope to polish.  Study those tweets when they appear: look up the words you don't know and look at how the words are phrased.  F├ícil. Eso es todo.  (Easy.  That's it.)

On the Subject of Twitter Lists

If you're not using Twitter lists, you should be.  They are a major tool for zeroing in on the best content.  I have a few public lists that should be revised or eliminated as I created them when Twitter lists first came out and I really didn't vet them as well as I should have.

I do, however, have a private Twitter list of my "content stars", tracking accounts that consistently share good content.  Why is it 'private'?  I am vigilant and ruthless in maintaining this list:  if the content doesn't meet the mark, you're off the list.  I'd rather not hurt feelings, if anyone were to care.  This list is a column in TweetDeck (I've begun testing the waters with Hootsuite) that is always up and where I look in throughout the day.  It brings me the best content and, now, it has started to help me brush up on my Spanish.  So I just thought I should share this tip.  Buena suerte!  (Good luck!)

How to Create a Twitter List (or Shameless Promotion of One of My Niche Accounts)

Go to the account tweeting in the language you'd like to brush up on.  See the profile, drop-down icon next to the blue "Following" box.  Click the drop-down arrow so that it reveals the choice, third one down, "Add or remove from lists".  If you haven't created lists, simply click on the bottom choice, "Create list".  Give the list whatever name you'd like, and start brushing up!
Your tips on using Twitter to brush up on or learn a second language?  Gracias!

Get Ready for State Regulation of Social Media

Although the author of this post is an attorney, nothing contained in this post should be considered legal advice.  For legal questions, please consult with an attorney from your jurisdiction.

In a bold move, the Securities Division for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced guidelines on the use of social media for state investment advisors who were previously permitted to market their services on social networks, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, without social media guidelines.  Coming just two weeks after the SEC issued its own set of social media guidelines, the Division's actions have raised the bar for other states to take similar action for the protection of investors.

Though many investors think that all investment advisors are regulated by the SEC, the reality is that the SEC only regulates investment advisors who manage $25 million or more in client assets.  For investment advisors managing less the $25 million in client assets, the responsibility of regulation is left to the securities regulator for the state where the adviser has its principal place of business.

In July of 2011, the Massachusetts Division conducted a survey of investment advisers registered and doing business within the Commonwealth to "to determine the scope of investment advisers' use of social media, and what, if any, record retention and supervisory procedures have been implemented or utilized by those advisers."  Seven-nine percent of the 576 investment advisers registered with the Division responded to the survey.

Most State Investment Advisors Lack a Social Media Policy and Fail to Monitor Advisor Social Media Activity

A report of the Division's survey results revealed that sixty-eight percent of investment firms using social media failed to have written policies on employee use of social media and that fifty-seven percent failed to retain records of content shared on social networks.

Based on the survey's findings on the failings of self-regulation, namely, the absence of in-house guidelines, archiving and supervision, the Massachusetts Division decided that it needed to provide social media guidelines for investment advisors it is charged with regulating.  Massachusetts' decision to issue social media guidelines raises the bar for other states that have yet to issue any guidelines. 

Because of Massachusetts' leadership, another stretch of the "Wild West" of social media may be soon coming to a close as other states, invariably, come to recognize that the absence of social media guidelines for a large swath of investment advisors in the social media space potentially puts at risk scores of family life savings and retirement funds.  Establishing social media guidelines should help the vast majority of ethical advisors who may have shied away from social media participation due to the lack of guidelines.  They should also help trigger earlier detection of unscrupulous advisor activity in the social media space.

Massachusetts Securities Division Confronts the Realities and Detail of Social Media

One of the most intractable, regulatory issues in social media for highly-regulated industries has been "What to do about the sharing of links?"  In the pharmacuetical space, the requirement of "fair balance" and other considerations have placed serious constraints on link sharing.  For the Massachuesetts Securities Division, however, this issue is not so intractable.  Simply, the Division has warned advisors that the sharing of a link, or "retweet" in Twitter, "without context", could well trigger impermissible "adoption" or "entanglement" -- but the key point to observe is that by providing "context", a violation might well be avoided.  Though the message is still one of "proceed with caution", it also demonstrates a real understanding of how social media works and how it can be used in a compliant fashion.

Some Key Takeaways and Social Media Best Practices for Massachuesetts Investment Advisors
  • As a general rule, social media accounts created or maintained for business will be considered advertising, and subject to the same regulatory requirements as other forms of advertising.
  • Advisors are now required to retain records of their social media "advertising" and "correspondence".
  • An adviser may also be responsible for content it did not author, i.e., third-party content, if the adviser has some responsibility for its creation (entanglement) or has somehow endorsed it (adoption) after the content was created.
  • "Retweets" on Twitter or link-sharing, without "context", may trigger impermissible adoption or entanglement.
  • Selectively deleting third-party material unfavorable to the adviser but continuing to display favorable content, may be deemed to adopt the remaining content.
  • Advisers should develop policies and procedures that maintain a schedule for review of third party posted content and, if the adviser chooses to remove content, criteria for removal.
  • LinkedIn recommendations may constitute impermissible testimonials and advisers should consider a policy to restrict the public posting of client recommendations to their LinkedIn profile.
  • Facebook “Likes” by themselves are not likely to give rise to a violation of the prohibition of testimonials, though advisors are warning against entangling themselves in such "Likes".  (The Division explained:  An adviser that suggests on their webpage that the number of “Likes” received is evidence of their ability as an investment adviser may run afoul of securities laws.)
  • Certain social media websites, such as Twitter, may be an inappropriate medium for discussion of performance advertising because of challenges to full and fair disclosure of all material information.
  • An adviser should conduct a daily review its social media presence and ensure that any content that could be considered non-compliant is removed or hidden from view promptly.
  • To avoid impermissible "adoption" or "entanglement" with third party content, advisors not solicit third party content on their website nor link to third party content that they have not thoroughly reviewed.
  • Advisors should provide a disclosure statement on their social media sites.
  • On the subject of advisor supervision and compliance, the Division largely embraced and adopted the recently enunciated SEC guidelines, charging its advisors to adhere to those standards, calling upon investment firms to establish a social media compliance program that would specifically address several factors: 1) usage guidelines as to proper and improper use of social media by investment adviser representatives, 2) content standards, 3) the manner and frequency with which an adviser will monitor social media websites, 4) whether investment adviser representatives must have social media content approved prior to public posting, 5) criteria for determining which social media or networking websites may be used by the firm and its representatives, 6) whether to train investment adviser representatives on compliant use of social media, and 7) certification requirements.
Over regulation?  A model for other states to follow?  What are your thoughts?

For more information on social media best practices, please join me on Twitter:  @GlenGilmore   @SocialMediaLaw1  @FinancialSM
Related Reading:  10 Social Media Law and Governance Tips for 2012

10 Tips for Corporate Social Media Governance

1. Create a Social Media Corporate Governance Team. 
Social media has evolved to social business.  In keeping with this evolution, corporations must get serious about social media governance, integrating social business and compliance into corporate culture.
Your social media governance team should reflect a cross section of your organization and it should become a center of excellence for your business.

Social media silos do not work. 

A social media governance team should bring together diverse talent, including marketing, customer service, IT, legal, and human relations, to share in learning, establish best practices, and create benchmarks for excellence, while humanizing your brand and driving business results.
2. Establish/Update A Social Media Policy. 
If your organization doesn’t have a social media policy, you are courting disaster as you are inviting even a single employee to have the power to redefine your brand in one inadvertent or ill-conceived post.
If, on the other hand, your organization was an early adopter of social media (or at least an early adopter of a social media policy!), it is likely time to update your social media policy. In the past year, the National Labor Relations Board has rendered over a hundred decisions touching on the topic of employee use of social media, with many of the Board's actions prompted by overly broad social media policies. The law is finally catching up to the implications and technologies of social media. Your social media policy should reflect those changes and clarifications. 
An abundance of  social media policies exists online.  Be mindful that some of the policies you may find online may also be in need of updating or just plain wrong.  You need to invest in getting your policy right and the proper policy for your organization may vary immensely depending on they type of organization you are and the degree of existing regulatory guidelines you must follow.

3.  Create a Social Media Playbook

Unlike your social media policy, which establishes the rules and limits of social media engagement, a social media playbook should be more of "how-to" book for your employees, a reference that provides examples of what should and should not be done on social networks.  Social network profile templates providing suggestions on how to best project a professional and consistent brand image should be included.
4. Establish a Social Media Communications Crisis Management Plan.
Along the way, your business will invariably have a crisis that will require it to muster its social media resources. Prepare for the crisis before it happens. This should include creating a response chart of who within your organization would be tasked with what and how they would be contacted, as most crises seem to happen after 5:00 p.m. or on a weekend. Have round-tables to identify the events most likely to trigger a communications crisis within your organization and then do some training exercises to run through how you charts and policies would work.
If you are a larger organizations, you likely already have crisis communications plans – they need to include social.
Knowing the mechanics of what to do if an employee has sent a mistweet from a corporate Twitter account (hint: don’t ignore it!) or what to do if your social network account has been hijacked by a spammer, are some of the scenarios you should review.

Be sure to cover this topic in both your social media playbook.
5. Take the Time to Learn the FTC’s Social Media Disclosure Guidelines. 
In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission, which characterizes itself as “the nation’s consumer protection agency”, updated its endorsement guidelines to include social media, addressing the disclosure requirement for sponsored bloggers and those that sponsor them, along with a series of . Most marketers have never read them. Put them on your reading list!  (When the FTC's social media guidelines first came out in 2009, I blogged about about them: they haven't changed.  New FTC Rules: Business and Bloggers Beware)
Succinctly, contrary to a large body of writing on the subject, disclosure “tabs”, “buttons”, “links”, and static profile disclosures do not suffice to satisfy the FTC’s social media disclosure requirements. (Disclosures are required within the context of the social conversation.)
6. Provide Your Employees with Social Media Training. 
Most of your employees are using social media throughout the day, regardless of what your social media policy may say to the contrary. Get over it. Instead, give your employees the social media training they deserve so that when they are using social media their time spent there will become an asset to your business rather than a ticking bomb.
7. Create a Social Media Decision Tree.  
Just as call center employees are often provided with a decision tree to help them to quickly answer a myriad of questions, a social media decision tree should also be established to help employees understand the dynamics of responding on behalf of a brand in social media.  The U.S. Air Force even developed a social media decision tree that the pharmaceutical Pfizer later used as the basis for its own.  Social media governance should aim to simplify social media participation for employees, while still relying on the good sense of employees to personalize the social conversation.  A decision tree will also add to brand consistency.

8. Streamline Access to Compliance and Legal for Social Media. 
Social media engagement is all about “real-time” conversation. It doesn’t mean a brand needs to give an instant response to every post or tweet, but it does mean that your company should strive to answer questions quickly -- you can get added time by letting your community know that you have heard a question or complaint and that are looking into it, but whatever procedures need to be followed to provide a response must be time efficient. Having a way to get answers from compliance or legal requires a new approach that dedicates a greater appreciation for the time sensitivity of responding to social network inquiries or comments. Work on a way to accomplish this.
9. Share Regular Updates on Social Media Best Practices. 
As social media continues to evolve, so should your best practices and your sharing of information about those best practices. Being attentive to and sharing updated guidance from regulatory agencies should be part of your updates. (This is a task best assigned to your governance team with special input from legal.)
10. Monitor, Assess and Audit Your Social Media Activities. 
Even with the best social media policies and training, your company’s social networking activities should be monitored and assessed for excellence. This doesn’t mean that every tweet has to be a masterpiece, but that online social networking engagement is consistent with the brand and contributing to the building of trust, transparency and brand advocates.

It is worth noting that many of the FTC’s social media-related settlements have included mandatory outside audits of social networking activities. Bringing an independent audit into the mix is good idea to help keep monitoring of social business activities as accurate as possible.
BONUS: Cleary Define Who Owns Company-Related Social Network Accounts.
One of the legal hot potatoes of 2011, the dastardly debate of who really owns your Twitter account or your LinkedIn contacts, etc., etc., is set to be formally answered in 2011.
Without taking away the suspense of any impending court decision, ownership of a social media account is subject of debate and litigation if it is not clearly defined and agreed upon between employers and employees or business partners. Dispel the ambiguity and legal uncertainty: make a written agreement that covers the issue.
A written agreement outlining what is to happen with a social media account opened or operated for a business purpose by an employee or business partner on behalf of a business is something that should be expressly defined. Why? Because most now recognize that social media accounts have a business value and, left undefined, issues of ownership are likely to arise when business partners or employees part ways.
What social media compliance issues do you find most challenging?

Please join me on Twitter at:  @GlenGilmore and @SocialMediaLaw1

Related Post: 
Don't Let Legal Keep You Out of Social