St. Louis: "What are your thoughts about social media?" asked Carl during the Q&A period following my presentation. "My junior partner’s all over me to start using Facebook for prospecting."

Our research is very clear on this issue. Social media is much like the Internet was 15 years ago. The early adopters helped define both the rules and the proper uses. Social media websites are continuing to grow like gerbils on fertility drugs -- they're multiplying as they keep gaining in popularity. Facebook is reported to have more than 400 million active users. And according to Erik Qualman, author of “Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business,” Facebook has topped Google for weekly traffic in the U.S. Now that's impressive!

With so many people (and potential prospects) online, and the profiles of these users overflowing with information, it's an opportunity for financial advisors. Financial advisors have taken a liking to many social media websites (LinkedIn in particular) because of their predisposition to prospecting. However, as with any new prospecting tool, it's important that we use it correctly. These online mediums are a tool to help you get face-to-face, accelerate the rapport-building process, and stimulate that good ol' word-of-mouth. They are changing the way in which we as a society communicate with one another.

Now I'm far above my paygrade, and I'm going to let our resident social media guru, Kevin Nichols, share with you a handful of Do's and Don'ts:

Social Media Do's & Don'ts
By Kevin Nichols

Do's

Hand-select prospects
One of the biggest benefits to getting involved with social media is the instant expansion of your reach. Social media websites do a really good job of helping you understand the relationship between people you currently know and people you want to know -- which is going to lead to more personal introductions. Start by linking in with clients, centers of influence, former colleagues, etc. Then do some digging to arrive at who they know so you can pinpoint specific introduction targets.

Gather Intelligence
You can now gather personal information on clients and prospects in advance of meetings. This can give you a huge competitive advantage. Imagine two advisors approaching two different meetings with the same prospect. The first advisor knows the prospect's name and relationship to their mutual center of influence. The second advisor knows this information and much more… He know where they went to school, what organizations they are involved with, their hobbies, interests, favorite books, names of other mutual connections, and more. Used properly, this information becomes ammunition to ask some pertinent questions to get them talking about their favorite subject - themselves. You've just accelerated the rapport-building process.

Utilize the Advanced Search (LinkedIn Only)
LinkedIn, in comparison to other social media websites, has a robust search feature. The truth is, the majority of LinkedIn users don't take advantage of this feature that lets you scour the site by industry, title, proximity, etc. If you have a particular niche, you can run searches to identify your ideal client profile. Also, the larger your network, the more valuable this feature becomes as the probability of you having a mutual connection increases.

Don'ts

Pitch Your Wares
As you get involved with any of these websites, it's important that you maintain a strong social presence and are not deemed as "that guy." As tempting as it might be to get into business right away, think of your online presence truly as an extension of yourself. If you were just meeting people at a networking event, would you start pitching right away? Of course not; you would build rapport, let them know what you do, and look for an opportune moment to take the relationship to a business level.

Be Unprofessional
This should go without saying, but even on websites that are more "social" than "professional" it's important that you maintain the highest standard for your online brand. You aren't the only one searching for information online. Make sure all images of yourself look professional and, more importantly, make sure any images tagged with your name (posted by other people) are removed if they involve you, a night in Las Vegas, and a vague recollection of Elvis.

Spam Your Connection's Contacts
Building a network of people you really don't have a connection with is not going to do you any good. Building a network of people you know through your current connections will, but it's going to take some time and dedication. Remember, the affluent make decisions based on word-of-mouth. Don't get a reputation online as the guy who is building a network just to have 2,000 "friends" in which he can pitch and coldly reach out to. Some sites will ban you. Think quality over quantity.


Thank you Kevin - he knows social media and is the process of completing a guide for advisors on this timely subject. If you are currently involved with these websites, that's great! Just keep in mind that they do take time and energy to build momentum, and make sure you use them to stimulate face-to-face contact. If you've been avoiding the social media wave, this is your chance to get started, be an early adopter, and capitalize on its advantages. You should also check with your firm's regulations and requirements before getting involved.



For an excerpt from our upcoming social media guide, download a free copy of our "LinkedIn Profile Tips.” This will give you some guidelines to keep in mind as you construct your profile. Enjoy!

Also, if you haven't already – join The Oechsli Institute's Group on LinkedIn!

Once again, we want to thank all of you who have emailed comments and questions to us. We will continue to do our best to answer each one.

If you have any topic suggestions or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep. and Trust & Estates magazines, at rich.santos@penton.com.