- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Stephens Inc. is joining a new thriving, albeit risky, venture: social media.

The Little Rock-based investment firm has entered the world of short messages and hashtags by joining three of the most popular social media sites - Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn - to share news and connect with clients.

“I guess we’re entering the 21st century,” Warren Stephens, the firm’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1fI43FD).

But the company is treading lightly into the social media world to comply with securities regulations and avoid mistakes that can instantly result from an ill-worded tweet or post.

So while the company is encouraging the use of the three social media sites among its employees, it is also limiting how the platforms are used for business.

Stephens, 57, attributes the decision to utilize social media to his 23-year-old daughter, Laura Stephens, who he said showed him how social media is used by similar investment firms and how it can benefit the company.

“I realized maybe I’m not a consumer, but we’ve got to get into this,” he said. “We all embraced this and said, ‘hey, we’ve got to do this.’”

Stephens now has a personal Twitter account.

“I only follow,” he said. “I don’t tweet.”

Although Stephens may not be a big social media user, that’s not necessarily the case for some of Stephens Inc.’s employees.

“We had a (company) Facebook page because we had so many Stephens employees on Facebook and we didn’t even know it - and it was wrong,” Stephens said.

“Not only are our employees using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, they were using them and all over the board,” Stephens said. From “a compliance standpoint, we needed to get in front of that and control that.”

He said the firm was also slow to use social media because there are many regulations to follow.

The move into social media will also help the financial institution expand its brand and build on its reputation, Stephens said.

“It’s also become a lot more important in recruiting candidates to the firm,” he said.

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