Social Media 2I continue my exploration of the use of social media as a tool of doing compliance by looking at some concepts around the sharing of information. In a recent podcast on Social Media Examiner, entitled “Sharing: The Art and Science of Social Sharing”, podcast host Michael Stelzner interviewed Bryan Kramer, a social strategist and author of the book “Shareology: How Sharing is Powering the Human Economy”. Kramer talked about several concepts that I found particularly useful for a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner to think through when considering the use of a social media strategy in a best practices anti-corruption compliance program, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act or some other compliance regime.

Kramer’s book Shareology is a study of how, what, where, when and why people and brands share. For this book, Kramer conducted more than 250 interviews with executives, marketers and social media people, as well as professors of linguistics, psychology, sociology and so on, with the question “why people share” in mind.

The answer came down to one thing: connection. He found that “People all have the desire to reach out and connect with other people, whether it’s through sharing content and having someone reply back or by sharing other people’s content and helping them out.” From this research, Kramer identified six types of people who share:

  • Altruist: Someone who shares something specific about one topic all the time.
  • Careerist: Someone who wants to become a thought leader in their own industry, so they can see their career grow.
  • Hipster: Someone who likes to try things for the first time and share it faster than everyone else.
  • Boomerang: Someone who asks a question so they can receive a comment only to reply.
  • Connector: Someone who likes to connect one or more persons to each other.
  • Selective: This is the observer.

I find all of these categories to be relevant to a CCO or compliance practitioner in considering the use of social media in their compliance program. All of these can describe not only the reasons to use social media but they can also help you to identify who in your organization might be inclined to use social media and how it can facilitate your compliance program going forward.

The Altruist, Hipster and Careerist speak to how a CCO or compliance practitioner can be seen in getting out the message of compliance throughout your organization. Whichever category you might fall into, it is still about the message or content going forward. I find nothing negative in being seen as one or the other if your message is useful. Even if you are my age, there is nothing wrong with incorporating a little Hipster into your communication skills. As my daughter often reminds me, Dad you are so uncool that you are retro, but that is cool too. Applying that maxim to your compliance regime, if you can communicate in a manner your workforce sees as interesting or even hip, it may well help facilitation incorporation of that message into their corporate DNA.

I found the Boomerang, Connector and Selective categories as good ways to think about how your customer base in compliance (i.e. your employees) might well use social media tools to communicate with the compliance function. The use of social media is certainly a two-way street and you, as the compliance practitioner, need to be ready to accept those communications back to you. Indeed some comments by your customer base could be the most important interactions that you have with employees as their comments or questions could lead you to uncovering issues which may have arisen before they become Code of Conduct or FCPA violations. More importantly, it could allow you to introduce a proscriptive solution which moves your program beyond even the prevent phase.

Kramer also has some insights about the substance of your social media message. Adapting his insights to the compliance field, I found a key message to be that the problem is that companies do not write the way they speak, and don’t speak the language of their employee base. In many ways, compliance is a brand and Kramer believes that “brands and the people representing those brands need to change their language. If they focus on the title and the quality of the content, among other things, it’ll resonate more with their audience.” He also advocates using the social media tools and apps available to you. He specifically mentions Meerkat and Periscope, Snapchat, memes and/or videos to raise the value of the content. He was quoted as saying, “If you have a blog and there are no visuals, you might as well shut it down.”

It would seem the thesis of Kramer’s work is that sharing is a primary method to communicate and connect. In any far-flung international corporation this is always a challenge, particularly for discipline which can be viewed as home office overhead at best; the Land of No populated by Dr. No at worst. Kramer says that you should work to hone your message through social media. Part of this is based on experimenting on what message to send and how to send it. Yet another aspect was based upon the Wave (of all things) where he discussed its development and coming to fruition in the early 1980s. It took some time for it to become popular but once it was communicated to enough disparate communications, it took off, literally. Kramer noted, “It’s the same thing with social media. On social media, we think something will go viral because the art is beautiful or the science is full of deep analytics, but at the end of the day it really takes time to build the community.”

This means that you will need to work to hone your message but also continue to plug away to send that message out. I think the Morgan Stanley Declination will always be instructional as one of the stated reasons the Department of Justice (DOJ) did not prosecute the company as they sent out 35 compliance reminders to its workforce, over 7 years. Social media can be used in the same cost effective way, to not only get the message of compliance out but also to receive information and communications back from your customer base, the company employees.

Once again please remember that I am compiling a list of questions that you would like to be explored or answered on the use of social media in your compliance program. So if you have any questions email them to me, at tfox@tfoxlaw.com, and I will answer them within the next couple of weeks in my next Mailbag Episode on my podcast, The FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2015

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