3 Myths Stopping Regulated Biz From Embracing Social Media

, Posted on Nov 11

Today’s guest post comes from our friend Shannon Paul. Shannon is the social media manager for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and she also writes about social media for business at the Very Official Blog.

I fell in love with merging social media into a regulated business environment when I worked in the finance space. I’ve since moved on to work in health care to manage social media for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and I still love it — Amber Naslund (Director of Community at Radian6) once introduced me as someone who does social media the “hard way.” Truth is I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There is something incredibly rewarding about helping a business navigate the rules brought by regulation in a way that helps them embrace this new dialogue-driven style of communication to connect them with customers and other stakeholders in a meaningful way, yet also respects the notion that most regulations are intended to protect consumers — never forget that.

There are a lot of things that make social media communication in a regulated business challenging to say the least, but many myths often permeate this environment.

Just so we’re on the same page, by regulated industries, I’m generally referring to businesses in finance/banking/securities, health care (insurance/hospitals/doctors), pharmaceuticals, government agencies themselves (many must adhere to the rules they set), spirits and insurance (property/casualty).

Myth: We can’t do anything creative or innovative because rules won’t allow it. In this case, they usually refers to the government, regulating body or even the company’s own internal compliance team.

Fact: There are always ways to figure out how to achieve your end result in a creative way AND stay within the regulatory guidelines.

Myth: Our industry regulations are worse, or more restrictive than other industries.

Fact: Each regulated industry has its own set of unique challenges, but many of the most frustrating elements are common amongst all regulated industries, and even those that are not regulated. Success at becoming a social business is challenging for all businesses. Regulated businesses often have the luxury of recognizing what some of the rules of engagement are for them as they wade into the social web. Unregulated businesses often stumble without rules to guide them in how they approach this new medium.

Myth: We must wait for our regulating body to tell us what we can and cannot do before we begin with social media.

Fact: Most regulatory bodies actually look to guidance from those they regulate when drafting new rules. The opportunity for outreach in defining the guidelines proactively often exists. Companies that sit and wait miss out on the opportunity to help steer regulatory bodies in a way that supports their business. Many regulated businesses could also begin to listen and track online conversations around their brand, and examine web traffic from social sites — there may be some insight, or valuable feedback out there that could inform everything from future product development, campaign development, safety issues, customer service opportunities, sales opportunities and so on. “Doing social media” doesn’t always mean creating a Facebook page — the value here isn’t in the tools themselves, but in how you use them.

Someone once told me long ago, when you stop searching for the solution you become part of the problem. Regulated industries aren’t the only ones with myths that keep them from embracing social media. What are some of the things maintaining the distance between your business and the social web?