GC14-06: Regulatory masochism and anti-social mediaRSS icon

Written by Adam Jones, Guest Blogger on Thursday 13 November 2014

Talking cross purposes
Sticking with my recent regulatory masochism, I have recently read the FCA’s Social Media and Customer Communications consultation (gc14-06) – it was worth the effort and benefits from being mercifully short. In it, the FCA set out their vision on how right minded FS companies will use social media to engage with clients, and also where those companies can fall foul of regulation in the process.

There is a clear offset between what firms will want to use social media for, and the FCA’s standpoint on how regulation will be applied to this. The FCA suggest that targeted marketing firms can be used to ‘lock down’ promotional content to target suitable market segments. They also recognise that the content posted on social media can be easily shared and distributed around the world, and thus, such content could eventually be seen by anyone.

So, companies are going to have to find a balance between creating engaging content based on, preferably, a segment of one approach where marketing messages are tailored for an individual client, while at the same time, not including messages within that content which would be inappropriate if the rest of the world saw them.

Which process do we regulate?
To be honest, it’s hardly what the progressive marketing and brand vision folks will be wanting to hear. I’m sure they will be falling out of their beanbags and choking on their ginseng infused green tea. For me though, it just emphasises the question of what we are applying regulation to, and whether that is actually a useful thing to do. Regulation of the marketing process (for social media and more traditional channels) will do nothing but put people off following on to the next step.

Not such a bad thing, I hear you cry, but what is the next step? Well, that would be the sales process; the heavily regulated and protected bit where people are going to get the same warnings again.  Moreover, the potential client is far more involved with the process at this point. Their investment of time so far means they are going to be more open and engaged with assessing the various risk and loss warnings which will be presented at every step.

Warning: This may not be to your tastes
If I see a poster advertising a book, I don’t expect to see the tagline include the phrase ‘warning, this may not be to your tastes’. That’s OK, I can accept that as a reality. When I make my way to a bookshop to find said book, and begin the sales process, I can start reading the back cover or the first few pages. This gives me the detail about what I might potentially be purchasing; the fact sheets and Ts&Cs, if you like. Of course, sometimes, I might still not know how my potential purchase might play out for me in the future. If all else fails, I can ask the bookshop owner, my trusted adviser, whether he thinks it would be appropriate for me, based on my history.

Putting people off book buying would be bad enough. Discouraging them from investing when a yawning savings gap is one the greatest challenge facing society seems plain crazy.

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