Written by Sorcha Lorimer, Founder & CIPM CEO and Founder of Trace

Investment managers are becoming increasingly aware that they are dealing with human beings when selling funds, and not just bluntly categorising them by the traditional retail/wholesale/institutional behaviour labels.

Marketing teams are trying to react to this new world, leveraging the myriad of tools they have at their disposal.

Uncertain terrain

More clients have been asking for our help with their social media strategies, including mapping external influencer and internal employee advocate landscapes. It's clear that for most businesses it remains an area of uncertainty, and one which has been underinvested in. A small group of - mainly the largest - fund groups are applying best practice, but causality is uncertain. Does more social media lead to higher assets under management (AUM) or does higher AUM simply mean more money is available to spend on social media?

The use of social media by individuals within businesses - specifically LinkedIn and mainly client-facing roles such as salespeople or fund managers - remains tightly controlled. We would suggest a basic rule of thumb should be to not share anything on social media that you wouldn't be happy to also do in the office. As politics becomes ever more polarising, it seems only sensible to apply some manner of guidelines. Your team should still be able to express themselves as individuals within these parameters.

Business or personal?

This inevitably raises the question: should individuals steer clear of politics on social media if they also use the same profile for offering views on fund management?

Social media can be a brilliant brand and marketing amplifier, but the potential pitfalls are as big as the benefits. In such a highly regulated sector such as asset management, the stakes become higher: there's a tight-rope to walk between free speech and good risk management. How a business gets that right comes down to company appetite for risk, corporate culture and their brand communication strategy.

Fund management is an area where political or economic views are particularly pertinent - an individual's view can skirt perilously close to financial advice. It's thus clearly critical that there are company social media guidelines in place to help navigate this.

Clear guidance

Another question that gets raised often is: In order to avoid embarrassing/harming your employer, can you simply state that a Twitter account is personal?

A Twitter account is obviously at the person level - not brand. Stating that Twitter accounts are personal is helpful - they are, after all, at a person level rather than brand. However, this isn't a catch-all and indemnity for saying anything. If an employee states controversial, misleading or even illegal views on social media, it's still public and on record. Well-known fund managers, for instance, have personal brands which are so closely entwined with those of the businesses they work for, that it can become very difficult to distinguish personal from business opinion.

In the face of the minefield of privacy, legal, compliance, copyright, libel and security risks in social, we cannot overstate the importance of governance and policies for businesses. The policies don't need to be (and indeed shouldn't be) lengthy documents, but crucial guidelines need to be communicated to and understood by the business, as well as align with the culture. Modern governance is relevant and living and breathing.

Then again, on the other end of the spectrum one could ask whether self-censorship would not be counter-productive if we're trying to make social media interactions engaging?

Authenticity is important - people see through contrived content or obvious trend-jacking. However, the social media sphere would be a better place (with less noise and rhetoric) if we all gave consideration - even a moment's pause - to the message, intent and value add before posting.