The Facebook FAQs say that choosing to Like something is “making a connection.” So a Like would seem to be a natural fit for NICSA, since we’re all about connections. For fifty years, we’ve been in the business of connecting individuals and firms across the industry with each other — and with the information they need to excel at their jobs.
But – and it’s a big “but” — financial industry regulator FINRA views a Like as an “adoption,” which is much more significant than a mere connection. Under the FINRA interpretation, securities industry representatives who become fans of a page adopt it as their own and become “entangled” in its content – and that could mean trouble for them and their employers if they knowingly adopt a page that contains false or misleading information. In other words, in FINRA’s eyes, a Like is pretty close to a recommendation.
Our story of Facebook woe
From FINRA’s position stems our story of Facebook woe. NICSA established a Facebook presence in April and, since then, we’ve gathered a grand total of 28 Likes. Even BP’s Tony Hayward is doing better than that!
We don’t think it’s our marketing. We promote our Facebook presence in the usual ways, with icons and links on our website, blog, marketing material and email signatures.
We don’t think it’s our content, either — which is full of snappy headlines, eye-grabbing visuals, penetrating insights and timely updates. (Or, at least, we try hard to make sure it’s filled with those things!)
No, the problem is that our members are afraid that they’ll lose their jobs if they become fans. They generally work for firms that are subject to FINRA rules – which apply to all business-related communication by the firm and its associates. To avoid any violations of the regulations, most of the firms have policies that completely preclude staff from using social media for business in any way – policies which have been very effective in making our members reluctant to Like us.
Why FINRA should care
If our members don’t Like us, our posts don’t automatically appear in the news feed on their home page, which means that they have to actively seek out our Facebook page in order to read what we have to say – not something that most people will do often.
They’re also less likely to spread the word about us to the colleagues. A recent study shows that Facebook users are more likely to recommend something that they’ve become a fan of.
We’ll put ourselves on the side of the angels and say that’s a loss for the financial industry – since NICSA’s mission is to provide investment industry professionals with the information they need to do their jobs well. It’s even something that FINRA should worry about – since so much of that information is related to regulatory compliance.
At the same time, if we should ever say something false and misleading (not that we ever would), there are fewer industry experts watching to call us on it and stop misinformation from spreading.
What do Facebook users mean by a Like?
It’s a particular shame because there’s not a lot of evidence that Facebook users take Likes as seriously as FINRA does. A survey by Exact Target shows that consumers become fans mainly to receive something: discounts, freebies and information. This word cloud provides a quick look at the survey responses.
Yes, “show my support” appears in the list – but Facebook users cast many more votes overall for updates, entertainment, exclusive content, further information or education as reasons to Like an organization. Interestingly, users seem to come to their own conclusions about whether a Like is warranted; fewer than 1 in 4 became a fan on the basis of a recommendation.
A Like by any other name – or, are you listening Mark Zuckerberg?
Which raises an interesting question: If the button were a “Get More Information” button, rather than a Like button, would FINRA be more comfortable with it? I’m extremely glad that Facebook didn’t name it the “Awesome” button, as they originally planned to do.
I suppose it’s too much to hope that Facebook will take a lesson from Twitter and use “Follow” or from LinkedIn and use “Connect” or “Join”. . . I can dream, can’t I?
If you like this blog post – and if your company’s policies permit – please Like our Facebook page.
We’d feel a lot less lonely.