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How the SEC learned to love social media

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Brands & Campaigns

Today’s Q-and-A is with Mark Story, the director of new media at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Story devises, develops and implements all of the agency’s social-media “Main Street” and “Wall Street” communications using a variety of off-the-shelf and custom applications.

Why has the SEC decided to use social media?

Investor protection is central to the SEC’s mission, and social media is a natural extension of this mission. Tools like Twitter, YouTube , a mobile site and an investor-focused microsite enable us to put important information where our stakeholders “live” online, using tools that spread our reach beyond the SEC website.

Do you have leadership buy-in?

Absolutely. Leaders across the agency recognize that just as markets have dramatically changed in recent years, so, too, have the ways that investors get information about how to invest wisely and avoid fraud and costly mistakes. Willie Sutton famously said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was. We’re using social media because increasingly, that’s where investors are.

Moreover, on the second day of his administration, President Obama issued the Open Government Initiative, one to “… harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public.” It is much easier for federal agencies to use social media.

How did you develop your social-media strategy, specifically Twitter?

It was a easy decision based upon targeted outreach. We developed three accounts that reach three important audiences: investors , the news media and even job-seekers. We have developed a considerable following: More than 46,000 followers from the three combined accounts.

Since you cannot engage with your Twitter followers, how do your spread the word about your efforts and work to get the influencers talking?

Again, reaching people online means putting information on online venues that are familiar to them. One of our more successful outreach efforts was a series of blogger conference calls with senior SEC staff. The most recent featured Robert Khuzami, director of the division of enforcement, during which he fielded questions from bloggers regarding the SEC’s Cooperation Initiative. The advantage of blogger conference calls is that targeted outreach often triggers discussion among thought leaders.

Want to learn more best practices for social media for financial-services companies? Check out SmartBrief’s next webinar on June 8, Building Equity: Social Media Meets Finance, with industry social-media pioneers including Mark Story from the SEC, Amy Dobra from The Vanguard Group, social-media maven Shiv Singh from Razorfish and newly added Amy Sochard from FINRA.