This isn’t the first time a financial firm has entrusted its employees with social media. Other banks and credit unions, mostly small ones, have given the social media go-ahead to a few select staff members. But Wedbush Securities, with 1,000 employees distributed across 100 different offices, is anything but small. And they’ve given the thumbs-up on social media across their entire company. Everyone.
Wedbush describes their approach as a “compliance friendly way for financial professionals to actively join the dialogue.”
The company is encouraging all of its financial advisors, investment bankers, traders, analysts and other employees to engage in social media for business purposes under the Wedbush brand.
“Each area of our firm markets a different service to a different audience,” explained Natalie Taylor, Vice President of Marketing, Wedbush Securities. “Limiting customization only prevents the Wedbush brand from accelerating into a market with a communication reach that spreads faster and further than we’ve ever seen.”
By distributing social media responsibilities to hundreds of employees — each with their own unique personality — Wedbush hopes to humanize online conversations, avoiding what they call the “industry-standard canned responses” you see so commonly from other financial institutions.
“We want our team to be truly social with their networking,” Taylor said. “By offering a more organic approach, their personalities will show and allow them to truly connect with people.”
While Wedbush has let its employees off the social media leash, this newfound freedom does not come without some caveats.
For starters, employees can’t just dive right in. They must first undergo a modest level of training on the proper business use of social media in a financial context. Additionally, Wedbush has a social media policy that provides guidelines, outlines expectations and explains appropriate usage.
Furthermore, employees are limited to the three biggest social media communities — Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook — at least for the time being. The company hopes to see its employee social media program expand.
“Down the road, we anticipate looking beyond the ‘Big 3’ and venturing into other social platforms such as Google+, YouTube, SlideShare, industry forums, etc.,” Taylor told The Financial Brand in an interview.
Wedbush sees social media as an increasingly critical component to every financial firm’s marketing plan and overall growth strategy.
“Many firms have been reluctant to allow social media,” Taylor said. “But Wedbush sees it as an integral part of the sales and marketing mix.”
“If you aren’t on board,” she warned, “you will get left behind.”
Employees can’t use their personal social media accounts for Wedbush business. They must instead create separate professional accounts wherein all content and activity — regardless of the nature, professional or personal — will be treated as official business and company policies will be enforced.
The company is monitoring employees’ use of social media to ensure content is appropriate, ethical and compliant. Requiring staff to create special, separate professional accounts will undoubtedly make monitoring employee activity easier.
Wedbush partnered with Socialware, a significant player in the financial social media space, to help the company properly review and archive its employees’ social networking communications. Socialware also provides Wedbush access to a large library of social media training- and regulatory resources specific to the investment industry.
Analysis & Conclusion
This isn’t Wedbush’s first foray into the social media jungle. They are already on Facebook and LinkedIn, and they launched their Twitter account back in September 2011. On the Social Media page at the company website, Wedbush even touts its Wikipedia entry — not something you see many financial institutions do.
Whatever your feelings might be about the general importance of social media in the financial industry (or lack thereof), you’ve got to give Wedbush credit for trusting so many of its employees to make responsible decisions when interacting online. It’s rare to find any company — much less a financial institution — that’s willing to extend so much faith and communications power into its staff. Of course some may argue, and rightly so, that these are the same employees entrusted to conduct millions of dollars in transactions, so it shouldn’t be too great a leap to allow them some degree of social media latitude. Fair point, you’ve got to admit.
It will be interesting to see how this experiment from Wedbush plays out. But based on a similar initiative from Best Buy, where some 3,000 employees have successfully manned the company’s Twitter account since 2009, it shouldn’t come as any surprise if Wedbush employees are still posting tweets and Wall updates in 2015 or beyond.
Taylor at Wedbush is optimistic too.
“As we become more sophisticated in our social media communications,” she said, “we can explore scalable, proven ways to grow our presence and increase our engagement with prospects and clients.”