Social media policies for accountancy firms – think MLR (part one)

Feb 15, 2012 | Linkedin, Social Media

I was interviewed recently to provide my views as regards social media policies that accounting firms might wish to institute in-house. I’ve summarised the key points I made and spread them over a couple of blog posts. Part one below. Part two later today.

There are two very different issues here.

The first is the extent to which the firm wishes someone to tweet or post other social media updates on its behalf. That’s a marketing related question – and one that most firms get completely wrong. Without side-tracking, let me just reiterate a point I have made many times on this blog.  Social Media is not something most firms can use effectively for broadcasting and promotional purposes – whatever the social media and marketing junkies tell you. Social Media only works when you recognise it relies on conversation and engagement.

The second and main issue I will address in these two blogs concerns the limitations and constraints that partners may wish to place on members of staff or partners who use social media and who are identifiable as being members of the firm.

I’m not a fan of including a standard note in online profiles that “All comments are my own”. Of course they are. Accountants are not in the same position as top independent journalists and broadcasters. I understand why THEY need to make clear that spontaneous status updates and tweets (personal views) are distinguishable from those that have been vetted and approved to appear in print/on air.

I can see an argument for treating social media training in the same way as anti-money laundering training. The Money Laundering regulations (MLR) impose obligations on accountants to operate specific procedures. It’s no good simply specifying these in a handbook, document or page on the intranet. Everyone has to receive training to ensure they understand their obligations.

I would suggest that the same is true re a firm’s social media policies. Indeed, regular updates are also required and these should be interactive and participative. They also need to avoid patronising anyone (That means talking down to them!) 😉

You need to address privacy issues and consider how important it is for everyone’s profiles to use the same description of the firm, their service areas and expertise. Who is to be responsible for establishing the firm’s business profile on Linkedin and, if considered worthwhile, on facebook?

There are employment law issues to consider too – in terms of what it is reasonable behaviour by employers, to what extent can new restrictions be imposed and what recourse employers can pursue if they feel they’ve been harmed by inappropriate social media activity. Also you need to consider how detailed you want to be in contracts of employment and internal procedure manuals. I tend to favour general guidelines and trusting staff/partners to apply common sense.

Will anyone in the firm take on responsibility for monitoring the linkedin accounts, facebook profiles and twitter accounts (as well as any other social media platforms) to ensure that everyone has included on approved ‘standard’ references to the firm? I would doubt that any firm has an automatic right to limit or constrain what staff/partners can include in their profiles. And i doubt that many firms are (yet) considering the implications either.

The second part of this blog post is here.

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