You practically have to be living under a rock (unless you are a friend of mine.....see my previous blog post May 26th) not to have at least noticed that social media platforms are changing the way people communicate both personal and professional information about themselves. Social Media platforms include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype and blogs like this one, on The Huffington Post.
Outside of LinkedIn, the other platforms are outgrowths of personal connectivity which have since morphed into professional promotional tools for many reasons. First and foremost, is the number of people to whom you have access on these platforms. They are, in fact, "an audience" who is already "listening" to you.
However, for those professionals governed by FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), it is a quite complex and a rocky road with a slippery slope. One of the "best practices" to remain FINRA compliant is for hedge fund managers is to solicit potential investors (accredited) who are known to the adviser. These are your friends, connections, fans, etc....this is, in fact, the nomenclature for each platform. Almost irresistible!
Further, given the average age of today's top hedge fund managers, its natural to utilize these platforms in daily life. There is an urge to connect personal and professional in the scope of "here is what i am doing now..." Financial services professionals want to blog, Twitter, Facebook (a verb?) about their lives. And, for many of these driven, Type A professionals, the work/life balance is blurry.
SEC-registered investment advisory firm, Horizon Cash Management, recently published a surveyed hedge fund managers to learn more about how/what is being used. 82 percent of respondents were at least somewhat familiar with social media tools, which is no surprise given the demographic. Also, LinkedIn was by far the most popular tool (84%), followed by Facebook (64%), Skype (44 %), Twitter (33%), YouTube (29%) and the least common, blogging, at a lowly 22%.
The most interesting statistic to me was that 60% of respondents said that they utilized social media to scope competition and to collect intelligence! As marketers, we generally think of "pushing out" the message. Social Media comes alive and is a formidable tool for those "miners" who like to dig. I wonder if FINRA has even considered this "breach." This puts a whole new "spin" on the oft-cited concerns firms have of FINRA's regulations over allowable communications.
In other words, while FINRA is watching closely what is going into the marketing "pot", who is watching what is coming out and how it is utilized?