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Becca Lipman
Becca Lipman
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Technology & Compliance Biggest Setback in Social Strategy

Wells Fargo says better social aggregation and search technology will help financial firms put their people back into the social realm.

When it comes to managing a social strategy, today's leaders aren't just following industry best practices. They are creating best practices -- a daunting task for an industry bogged down by regulations and traditionally conservative cultures.

Those in social media management roles have come to understand that this is not a venture they need to tackle alone. Collaboration among competitors is helping not only to establish clear user guidelines, but also to standardize the technology features and capabilities in platform and compliance.

"It's interesting how much sharing they will do despite being competitors," according to Socialware executive vice president Bruce Milne. "They talk about best practices, like how much corporate content do they produce and keep for tapping."

Kelli Carlson, vice president of social engagement leader at Wells Fargo, agrees.  Only a few weeks ago she sat in a room with other social engagement leaders at top banks, including Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Canada as well as a big bank from Chile. They discussed challenges they need to work through from a financial perspective, what they are finding, where adoption is happening, as well as how are they dealing with a conundrum presented by the latest release of Social Media features.

"Currently the financial industry segment meets regularly to talk about how we can continue to foster engagement through social in a compliant and secure way," Carlson told us. "It isn't an easy task, given the current climate for regulation and lack of a solution to support it. But the fact is, given all these challenges and that most financial institutions all have different technology stacks, we can share knowledge freely, knowing you can't just plug/play a solution into a competitor's environment."

The biggest concern in the space is the regulatory piece. Because customer experience and safety is top of mind for all parties, social strategists are collaborating with vendors to make sure all are operating in the cloud in the most secure way possible. "We want to make sure we don't all go off and build something custom with a vendor when an industrywide solution would save everyone time and money," said Carlson.

Education, compliance, and then more education
The reality -- and the greatest challenge that technological innovators are facing -- is that social is everywhere, inside and outside the company. Because of the way information can be disseminated across multiple networks, it becomes easier to overlook off-brand messages or miss important conversations. "It is imperative to be able to search and aggregate across those channels," Carlson said, "to track and find interests, conversations, and connections internally and beyond the firewall."

Among many of the problems created by siloed social networks is the accidental signaling of material information across channels. For example, several executives will tweet and post on Facebook about visiting a distant town, followed by a spurt of LinkedIn connections from a division of a company headquartered in that area. Alone, these actions are dismissible, but savvy onlookers could use this information to predict a partnership or acquisition before it's made public.

"If I go to one social network here and another there, but we can't connect them, then that's a problem," Carlson said. Though popular social management sites like Hootsuite help aggregate the commenting and activity for several external sites, they cannot yet aggregate with and search internal social networks like Jive, Yammer, Chatter . "It falls into the category of getting a big picture. We need to educate our team members, so they know what messages they are sending out."

Data and storage also tops the list of frustrating technical gaps. The SEC requires regulated users to track all content from social media, store it for seven years, and enable a compliance officer to to search and log it. Profile management and archiving tools like Socialware help with logging on mainstream sites, but they do not work on internal social networks, where the same rules apply. "From a technology perspective, none of these tools out of the box solve for it, so we have to figure that out."

All under one roof
To make the landscape as uncomplicated as possible, a trend among firms is to limit their social media presence to a curated selection of accounts.

Typically, social media were piloted within the organization by a handful of standalone groups, Milne said, but "recently there has been a migration of those groups back into a corporate marketing function, with strategy and dollars to fund it coming from marketing."

Wells Fargo can attest to that. It recently went through a big cleanup effort of its social presence. "Accounts were in the double digits on every channel, and we were going through a merger, too." Today at Wells Fargo, there is one official Facebook page, one LinkedIn account, and limited Twitter accounts. They are managed by the Enterprise Social Media Team, run by Renee Brown, and operate on a high-level strategy aimed at brand marketing. "This high-level strategy lays a good foundation and governance model for our lines of businesses to run in a hub-and-spoke model."

Perhaps one of the biggest indicators that social media have gone mainstream as a marketing channel: Industry leaders are beginning to discuss ways to apply dynamic digital signal analytics to their social data. Data dynamic signal, also known as social chorus, is used to look at employee advocates and figure out which ones emerge as influencers.

"That's been a big cultural change and a focus in the wholesale business in the last two weeks," Carlson said. "You can't just buy influence. You've got to earn it. Similar to a physically social environment, you can't just go online and act like a CFO, but you can still have influence." Maybe you know a lot about mobile technology and Apple payments, and you might not have the business title, but you do have a lot of people who trust you and follow you. Social chorus is about figuring out how to seek those users out within the organization and amplify their voice.

Becca Lipman is Senior Editor for Wall Street & Technology. She writes in-depth news articles with a focus on big data and compliance in the capital markets. She regularly meets with information technology leaders and innovators and writes about cloud computing, datacenters, ... View Full Bio
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