Last week I attended CLEAR’s Regional Seminar in Toronto, where a number of regulators from across North America came together to discuss issues surrounding transparency and openness. During the session an interesting topic sparked a bit of a debate among the group of regulators in attendance. The debate surrounded the use of social media by professional regulators.

With all of the discussion regarding transparency, openness, and communication with the public it was only a matter of time before the conversation deviated to the use of social media by professional regulators. I found it interesting to learn that many regulatory bodies are hesitant to adopt this now widely accepted medium of communication. For many, the risks outweigh the benefits. The open and democratizing nature of social media creates a number of potential risks for regulators.

Having spent many years working with Associations and Regulatory Bodies, I’ve come to learn that members are at the heart of these organizations and their success is directly tied to how well they communicate and engage their members. The value of a membership relies greatly on knowledge-sharing and communication. By nature, social media facilitates knowledge-sharing and creates a sense of community, which is just what a regulatory body and association does offline – so why not online?

At the CLEAR Regional Seminar Bruce Matthews, Deputy Registrar of Regulatory Compliance at Real Estate Council of Ontario, shared his view on transparency and openness. His take on the two seemingly similar issues was interesting. Bruce described transparency as sharing information about “how” the organization operates, while openness involves disclosing information about specific practitioners. When I thought about how social media fit into his interpretation of the two I concluded that social media gives regulators the opportunity to be more transparent. The ubiquity of the internet provides social media with the potential to improve access to information, services and overall processes. The nature of social media facilitates member feedback which will allow you to uncover areas where you’re members need more transparency. It is not the communication channel you should choose to disclose information about specific practitioners, rather to better service your members and share insight into the processes that involve members.

After hearing this discussion at the CLEAR Regional Seminar I was inspired to take a look at what some of the largest regulatory bodies in Ontario are doing online. Naturally, I started with the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT), as that was where the CLEAR seminar was held.

OCT does a great job of using social media to share what’s happening within the College and the community. But they also use social media to share announcements like Council elections and application deadlines with their followers. Posting important dates or links to services improves user experience and can significantly reduce the number of inquiries your organization receives by members, applicants and other stakeholders.

Ontario College of Teachers Facebook

Ontario College of teachers Facebook Ontario College of Teachers Twitter

It’s an unfortunate fact that regulatory bodies are most often associated with negative press, mainly because the media focuses on major cases effecting the public. I’m not saying social media is the medium to share member information regarding these cases – at all. However social media opens up opportunity to drive positive conversation surrounding your organization, your standards, and your members. OCT does a great job of that on their YouTube channel. They are pushing down the negative conversation surrounding the rare cases and hearings involving their members by featuring teachers doing astounding things for their students.

OCT is proof that when used correctly and carefully managed, these social platforms can be an effective communication tool to distribute information, engage members online, and share achievements with the public.

I’m interested to hear from you! Is your college actively participating in the conversation on social media? If you’re a member of a regulatory body or association, do you go to social media for more information? Leave a comment!

Social media strategies are most effective when you are engaging directly with members, facilitating discussion and listening to feedback. Peopleworks, our member management solution is built on the powerful Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform. Because this solution is built on such a robust platform there are many added features that you can take advantage of, one being its ability to integrate social media into your member management investment. Peopleworks allows you to integrate social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook enabling a social media strategy where you can effectively plan, manage and measure your efforts. Having social media built in allows you to see which members are engaging with you and allows you to respond to inquiries and discussions on social media without leaving your member management tool. You’ll be able to listen to what members and stakeholders are talking about and identify areas of improvement to drive your business towards regulatory excellence.

But this just scratched the surface on what this platform and social media integration could do for your business. Contact [email protected] if you’d like to learn more about how far we could take your member management system!