Ambiguity surrounding FINRA guidance on social media (see this report from a February SEC event) forces some mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers to resort to a familiar argument when appealing to their firms’ compliance officers. “But Fund Company XYZ does it, why can’t we?” The argument meets with limited success.
Investment company Websites provide ample signs of the divergence between compliance departments’ interpretation of the FINRA guidance (influenced probably by executive management’s appetite for stepping out socially). But today let’s look at just one narrow slice of social media the extent to which sites offer social sharing icons.
Content sharing (syndication) is important in a world that acknowledges that more people are going to others’ sites than are coming to yours. This has been a favorite subject here on the Rock The Marketing blog (see Evolving Away From Site Tours And Toward 'Likeable Objects' andAsset Manager Site Traffic Also On The Decline—What’s Your Content Syndication Plan?).
We are increasingly seeing social sharing icons on asset manager Websites, such as the above best practice approach from USAA.com. That’s a positive development for site users who expect to continue their sharing ways no matter what site they’re on. It’s a positive for the firms interested in extending the reach of their content. And in most cases, it adds to marketers’ analytics, which should lead to added intelligence about what’s valued and what isn’t.
At the same time, we know there are marketers whose efforts to add social bookmarking have been shut down. They and their firms are operating at a disadvantage.
What Can Be Learned From The Facebook Like Button
Two announcements this week prompt this post.
There was news on Tuesday that Warner Brothers Entertainment would begin offering movies via a Facebook app. This decision to stream a single piece of content (one movie) could be a game-changer as it represents a major studio’s intention to use Facebook to supplement sagging DVD sales while at the same time avoiding Netflix, Amazon and iTunes as online distributors.
Imagine you’re in the meeting discussing this and the conversation comes around to, “Well, which movie should we test this with?” The online audience is different from the movie-going audience (for a peek at the difference, see Mashable’s report on who "the online world" predicted would win the Oscars). And a Facebook audience is different than an online audience.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, Warner Brothers chose the 2008 "The Dark Knight" as its launch title largely because it had already been "liked" by 3.9 million Facebook users.
Wouldn’t you like to know which of your content is shared and couldn’t you use such data in the decisions you make?
In a related news story, Facebook launched a new version of its Insights for Websites. Insights now provides much more information regarding the use of the Like button, the top popular pages that people are liking and sharing and demographics of the likers and sharers.
These are analytics about consumption of your content off your site that you are going to want and need.
An Asset Manager Status Update
FINRA-regulated businesses that offer social sharing include Eaton Vance, Putnam, Russell Investments, USAA and Vanguard. They employ a mix of approaches. We’ve seen sharing buttons on what look to be all pages of a Website and on just some sections. It’s more common to see them on market commentary or investing education pages than on product pages. Standard third-party disclosure tends to accompany the sharing features on Websites but not on the sites’ blogs.
According to our spot-check, AddThis and ShareThis are the most common third-party services offering a suite of sharing buttons including email, Twitter and "share this on Facebook." In addition to supporting sharing, both services offer analytics enabling site publishers to understand how site users are valuing their content. Marketers, content creators and investment strategists, too, can get a lot of value out of the analytics each service provides—see AddThis analytics and ShareThis analytics.
But the Facebook Like button is the motherlode when it comes to creating awareness and driving traffic. In November 2010, Hitwise reported that Facebook.com generates nearly one in four page views. So…if you’re a marketer interested in getting in on that, you may want to lobby for a Facebook Like button.
Unfortunately, social sharing seems to stop just short of the Like button on asset manager sites. Based on a few offline discussions we’ve been part of and on a discussion you can see on SocialTurns.com, the ambiguity about what "liking" means seems to be impeding implementation.
Can a FINRA-regulated individual click the Like button himself? Some say no, because the act would represent adopting the content and thereby assuming liability for it. But what registered persons can/can't do seems to be a separate issue. FINRA has said that it will issue additional guidance later this year. Let’s hope that it clarifies the question of whether asset managers are within bounds offering the Like button.
Today, the Like buttons are few and far between in the wild. I looked around for a while until I spotted the one on iSharesblog which is a different entity from iShares.com. (Clicking on the blog link from ishares.com launches an interstitial warning page that you’re leaving the site.)
There it is in its awesomeness, supported on a BlackRock Institutional Trust Company Terms & Conditions page that goes to great lengths to disclaim content use and linking. That BlackRock found a way to address this is a good sign, for its blog users and for its marketers.
Will this example help sway your compliance head? Hope so. Are you aware of others? Please let us all know below.