Can you remember how firms viewed the Internet 15 years ago? Now consider how the Internet is used compliantly within the financial world today, and you're most likely looking at the future of social media. It is about to become a major force in marketing — especially for financial advisors.

Not only do we have a wealth of research on this topic, we are fortunate to have a resident expert in the person of Kevin Nichols. Kevin is our social media guru, and not a day passes that he's not on a conference call talking about social media marketing do's and don'ts.

The following are Kevin's Basic Principals to Social Media Branding.

Create a Professional Digital First Impression

Whether it's LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, every aspect of your social media presence reflects your brand. You should think about the impression your digital profile is going to make at first glance the same way you would a face-to-face interaction — you only have a matter of seconds.

Post a professionally-taken photo. I can't tell you how many advisors we connect with online who don't have a photo! This makes your presence more personal and brings your profile to life. Make certain that your photo projects the right image you want to convey to clients, prospects, centers of influence, and referral alliance partners.

Social media sites are not a place to brag or to be silly. Envision a potential client looking at your profile and think about what would be appealing or unappealing to them.

Craft Your Message Carefully

You've made your first impression; now it's time to reinforce it through your message. The content and information you post should reflect your brand and avoid coming across as “salesy.”

Think of your initial tag line as being short and sweet. This is your branding statement — not the place for a long-winded value proposition.

Do not use your social media presence as only a resume (listing all your accomplishments) or a brochure (listing all your deliverables). The presence of only this type of information is a turnoff to potential prospects.

Be Selective of Your Connections (Contacts)

You are known by the company you keep. This adage holds true for your real life and virtual reputation. If your connections are full of your fraternity brothers who are more party animal than professional, your credibility takes an immediate hit.

Remember that less is more. You are after high-quality connections. If a prospect or COI goes to your Facebook page and discovers that you are connected with a handful of quality attorneys, CPAs, and other prominent people in town, your credibility instantly goes up (remember, you're in digital time.)

Stay Relevant

The idea is to pass on useful bits of information, initiate interesting discussions, and make your presence magnetic.

Link to news, articles, etc. that will be pertinent to your clients and prospects. Not only will your current connections check in more regularly, but you and those bits of information will get passed along. You want to be perceived as a resource. This will broaden your reach among the centers of influence you want to reach.

A note of caution: Don't take sides on political issues. And don't let your direct connections get into political rants.

Be Vigilant in Your Maintenance

As with any marketing campaign, you must be consistent in your approach. Daily maintenance is a habit worth forming. Dedicate a few minutes every day to checking your profile, identifying connections, contributing to groups, and catching up with contacts. To add even more structure, put together a weekly calendar of the content you plan to post. Your goal is to develop a following, and that doesn't happen through sporadic commitment.

Remember, you're in digital time and things change quickly. Make certain you and your connections are always relevant and reinforce your positioning. Also, as tempting as it might be to post any and all information you can find in an effort to gain an online presence, this is not maintenance. It's not important to anyone but yourself, for example, that you just finished watching the “Star Wars” trilogy.

Stay tuned — next month I will outline how to successfully use social media as a marketing tool.

Writer's BIO:

Matt Oechsli
is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.oechsli.com