Your Social Networking Profile And Posts Are Your Employer's Responsibility, and FINRA is Watching

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What happens when the financial services industry's regulation-induced culture of secrecy collides with the anything-goes atmosphere of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook? The latest such "happening" is FINRA's newly issued guidelines on use of social media and blogs by broker-dealers and their representatives. (Any comparison with the M. Night Shyamalan horror film, The Happening, is purely coincidental.)

Working in a regulated industry, most financial professionals are keenly aware that talking shop outside the office can endanger careers. But the boom in social networking and media - both for business generation and career and recruiting purposes - is compelling many individual employees (below the MD level at least) to have a public profile on the Web that includes recent employment history.

On Monday, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued long-awaited Regulatory Notice 10-06, "Social Media Web Sites: Guidance on Blogs and Social Networking Web Sites." Here are two essential takeaways, courtesy of Investment News:

Your Profile Is Considered A Web Page

That means if you are a registered rep or other "associated person" of a firm overseen by FINRA, you need company approval before posting your profile on social media sites. "In the long run, this could save you a lot of trouble with your compliance officer and regulators," Investment News observes.

Loose Talk Could Damage Your Career

On a social networking site,

Even seemingly harmless remarks about the market or stocks or annuities could be construed as investment advice - and that could land RIAs and other advisers in hot water. Best policy: nix anything that could be taken as financial advice.

The Upside - Market Yourself, If Permitted

Investment News also offers general tips for social media use by financial advisers. Here's our quick summary:

- Social networking sites aren't just for posting your resume. Treat them as marketing tools.

- Loading your profile with well-chosen keywords will pay off in increased hits - and contacts by potential customers as well as potential employers - when users search for those terms. Include "core phrases" in every field within your profile, from name and title, current and past work, all the way down to summary and specialties. Unlike a resume, sharing personal details such as interests and hobbies can help too.

- Conversely, avoid the by now widely known pitfall of trashing your own profile by posting anything that any anonymous reader's grandmother or 10-year old daughter might view as inappropriate, such as a photo of yourself "wearing a lampshade and drinking from a promotional sized bottle" of wine.

- Start by connecting with friends and colleagues already on the site. "Remember, the people you connect with or follow is a reflection of who you are - almost as much as your profile."

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