“We can’t do that! We’re in [INSERT BORING REGULATED INDUSTRY HERE].” How often have you heard this? Maybe you’ve even said this. In either case, don’t worry. All of the bells and whistles of social media and digital marketing often get muted by the sad trombones of those in regulated industries.

While marketing in a regulated industry is a very real challenge, it doesn’t mean that the digital summit is insurmountable. Rather, you just need to know the secret path for getting there.

What Regulations Really Mean

Whether you’re talking about financial services, healthcare, or pharmaceuticals, most regulated industries are regulated in order to protect the customer. That’s why you have to include a paragraph of legalese when you want to promote a financial product or advertise a new diet pill (you know — that speed-reading test you sort of hear at the end of TV and radio commercials or that teeny-tiny paragraph in a print ad).

And many of these regulatory guidelines carry over to digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Do you want to type a Facebook status update from your brand with that paragraph in it the next time you promote your product? Probably not.

Instead of being shackled by these regulations and guidelines I have a bold idea: Don’t be.

What You Can Do About It

I’m not suggesting that you go rogue and throw regulations out the window. I’m also not implying that it’s just too hard to engage. I’m simply saying that you need to look at what you can do with social media and digital marketing.

Again, most regulations are tied to protecting consumers from misinformation and dishonest sales pitches and promises (theoretically, you should be against this stuff too). My radical idea is shifting away from using social media for aggressive selling and instead focus on getting back to basics. Your digital meat and potatoes.

In spite of media shifts over the past few centuries (and there have been a few) strong brands that stand for something have always stood out in a noisy marketplace. Yet too many still see branding as a dated concept. It’s your logo and nothing more. Your brand is actually a complex system of beliefs that you have about what you do and who you do it for that should draw your followers close to you like a campfire and leave them waiting for your next update. This doesn’t happen overnight. You have to be something before you can build a community around it. (More on what a brand is and isn’t.)

From here, you need to take Jay Baer’s philosophy of helping not selling (outlined so effectively in his book Youtility) and work on sharing useful content and solving your community’s problems on social media. Forget selling them your lowest rate, your miracle cure, or the like. Instead create a digital brand strategy that is grounded in using social conversations and helpful content to create community.

After these meat and potatoes, the rest is gravy. (I couldn’t resist. And now I’m hungry.)

Not Engaging Is Not an Option

When speaking with businesses at events, conferences, and clients meetings, I often call this the ostrich objection. “Our industry is too regulated, the work is too hard, the risk is too great, so we’re not going to engage on social media.” This head-in the-sand mentality doesn’t get you anywhere. You aren’t avoiding the challenge, you’re hiding from it.

Recently, I noted that consumers are only getting more digitally savvy in their work and their personal lives. You can’t hide from them on the largest and fastest growing communications platforms.

You can engage if you focus on developing a brand that means something. A brand that people want to be a part of. And by creating a digital strategy grounded in helping your customers solve their problems. Regulations don’t block the path to using social media. They merely create the need for blazing a new one.