Jared Roy, President, Risdall Integration Group

The role and power of social media in today’s marketing strategies is undeniable. But Healthcare, pharmaceuticals, banking, insurance, spirits and publicly traded companies are all highly regulated and a social media nightmare, right?
Not necessarily. It may take some work, but it is possible.

If you work in healthcare you need to follow Pharma guidelines and HIPPAA laws. Pharmaceutical companies must adhere to Food & Drug Administration rules and regulations. The banking industry has their own Federal, State and Local regulations. Insurance companies are regulated at the federal and state level and brokers are only allowed to provide recommendations for the states in which they are licensed. The spirits industry is governed by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

So with all of the regulations, governances, and laws, how can anyone in a regulated industry possibly engage in social media?

To start with, all social media initiatives should first begin with listening to conversations. You can’t violate any rules or regulations by listening to public conversations occurring on social networks. I have recently written a white paper on setting up a listening platform, you can down load it here: http://risdall.com/listen.

Once you have listened to conversations surrounding your brand and industry, you should start to see trends. These trends should then be put into two buckets, with preparations made for a third. The first bucket will include conversations that you deal with on a daily basis from reporters, analysts and other influential groups. The second bucket will include conversations that as a regulated industry, you don’t want to touch, but need to continue to monitor. The third bucket will be for addressing crisis situations and monitoring the effects and how far and wide they spread online. Ideally, the third bucket should be empty, and stay empty.

Once you have identified the first bucket of conversations, the next step is to create key messages for these conversations. These key messages need to be approved by your legal and regulatory teams.

Once these key messages are approved, the next step is to create a social media policy for your employees. This policy will include the "do’s and don’ts" of social media and the key messages and types of conversations that are OK to engage in. It must be clearly stated that only conversations that fit into the first bucket are OK to engage with and the only messages that can be used to respond to those conversations are the previously approved key messages.

I encourage you to start small with a few key messages and expand those key messages when you get more comfortable with the medium. It will take some time, but in the end, finding ways to effectively use social media in your regulated industry will be one of the best investments you will ever make.