Don’t Care About Social Media Regulations? You Should.

by Jeannie Walters

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This week, I stepped down from the board of the Chicago chapter of the Social Media Club. After two years, I’ve learned so much from inspiring speakers, members and sponsors.

The most-recent event was all about transparency and regulations and disclosures. Let’s face it, most of us don’t know what we should.

It was truly an all-star panel with Roula Amire, Managing Editor of, Tom Chernaik, CEO of, Michael Kiefer, General Manager of BrandProtect, and Rich Sharp, SVP Healthcare at Edelman Digital.

In so many ways, each of us is an online publisher now. We (or our employees) post 140-word quips on Twitter, photos on Facebook, job changes on LinkedIn and inspirational photos on Pinterest. And yet most of us don’t concern ourselves with the latest information on how we need to follow the rules, which, by the way, are changing daily.

While each speaker had much to say about specific industries’ policies and the acronym-laden agencies that govern them (FDA, FTC, FINRA, et al), there were definitely highlights for any of us who deal with social media as part of our professional lives.

Does your attorney understand the risk and reward?

Tom recommended checking with legal counsel FIRST and often. Your legal team should be a partner in the process, not an afterthought. Make sure you have someone who understands and appreciates the world of social media. Sticking your head in the sand isn’t a strategy.

Do your employees really understand the standards and risks of their involvement with your brand?

Don’t assume they do; instead, train and inform. Michael shared story after story of shocking ways one small move by an employee or representative of your brand could impact an entire business. According to BrandTrust’s research, a negative episode in social media can bring down the stock price as much as 10%. Just ask United Airlines. Just recently, the National Labor Relations Board released new standards which could have dramatic effects on the rights of employees in social media.

Who do you serve?

While the FDA, AMA and other agencies might want to have the final say, Rich highlighted to never lose sight of what you’re really trying to do. Social media in healthcare should be about advocating for patients. Do your best to stay true to your mission first, but don’t ignore the rules, work within them.

The panelists did a great job explaining how much we do know and how much we simply don’t. As the government wrestles with its involvment in these rules, companies and industries are also self-regulating and adjusting to this brave new world.

It seems a message we can all hear and share is that we’re all in this together. It will take many policies, mistakes, corrections and roadmaps to figure out the emerging way we communicate. Do you have advice for those just considering regulations?



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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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