State insurance regulators are starting to think about how to handle market conduct concerns in the age of Twitter.

Brenda Cude of the University of Georgia and John Travagline of the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association, Bethesda, Md., recently presented an educational session on the topic in San Francisco, at the recent winter of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo.

The speakers noted that the term “social media” can refer to any interactive social forum, as well as to high-profile services such as the Twitter mass messaging service, the YouTube video posting service, and the LinkedIn professional networking service.

Social media can help producers find new clients and engage in business discussions, according to a presentation handout posted on the Market Regulation and Consumer Affairs Committee section of the NAIC’s website.

Consumers, in turn, can use social media to verify producers’ credentials and get quick answers to questions, the speakers said.

“Given all of the means of communications in Social Media, the producer must be mindful of applicable regulations,” the speakers said, according to the presentation handout.

“Regulations can be difficult to comply with,” and, “without controls in place, the use of Social Media may be prohibited,” the speakers said.

Any controls that are put in place may be too burdensome, the speakers said.

For consumers, challenges include knowing whether the information they are getting is accurate and what other social media users will do with the information that consumers provide, the speakers said.

Laws and regulations pertaining to privacy, defamation, unfair trade practices, intellectual property, and communications and advertising all could apply to insurance social media communications, but insurance regulators may not have the staff to police social media networks, or even access to the networks that they do know about, the speakers said.

The speakers noted that IMSA and AARP, Washington, have co-hosted a summit on social networking that brought IMSA member company compliance personnel together with federal regulators, state insurance regulators, and others.