Social media has been defined in a number of ways. For purposes of this Guidance, social media is considered to be a form of interactive online communication in which users can generate and share content through text, images, audio, and/or video. Social media can take many forms, including, but not limited to, micro-blogging sites (e.g., Facebook, Google Plus, MySpace, and Twitter); forums, blogs, customer review web sites and bulletin boards (e.g., Yelp); photo and video sites (e.g., Flickr and YouTube); sites that enable professional networking (e.g., LinkedIn); virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life); and social games (e.g., FarmVille and CityVille). Social media can be distinguished from other online media in that the communication tends to be more interactive. For purposes of this Guidance, messages sent via traditional email or text message, standing alone, do not constitute social media, although such communications may be subject to a number of laws and regulations discussed in this Guidance. However, messages sent through social media channels are social media. Social media is a dynamic and constantly evolving technology and thus any definition for this technology is meant to be illustrative and not exhaustive. In addition to the examples of social media mentioned above, other forms of social media may emerge in the future that financial institutions should also consider.
Financial institutions may use social media in a variety of ways including advertising and marketing, providing incentives, facilitating applications for new accounts, inviting feedback from the public, and engaging with existing and potential customers, for example by receiving and responding to complaints, or providing loan pricing. Since this form of customer interaction tends to be both informal and dynamic, and may occur in a less secure environment, it can present some unique challenges to financial institutions.