Are you using social media wisely?

The question isn’t “Are you using social media?” You’re on top of that, or you’re about to start. The question is “Are you using social media wisely?”

Social Media may be the most human tool ever devised. We’re social by our nature; we always want to be talking, meeting, sharing, and we always seek out community. Unlike a TV Commercial or an ad in the paper, you have the opportunity to get to know your intended audience before posting. Knowing their passions, their concerns, and their everyday lives will inform you about what to share.

As I see it, your job is to start a conversation and keep it going. This doesn’t mean responding to every post. Don’t just talk. Listen. Monitor. Pay attention. If someone posts about a new child or a grandchild, this gives you the information that this person may be thinking about starting a savings plan for college. If someone reaches a particular milestone birthday, that may be an indication that it’s time to have a conversation about their retirement savings, or maybe even legacy planning.

Here are some tips for using each of the three main Social Media Platforms:

• Twitter: 140 characters may seem like too little to communicate, but use that space wisely; link to relevant or interesting articles. If you keep a blog, link to that. Your followers will decide what they want to read, based on their own lives and interests.

• Facebook: More intimate than Twitter, Facebook is less like the town square and more like being invited into someone’s living room. If you are fortunate enough to be “friended,” be sure to balance information with some personal stuff. Nothing too personal. But pictures from a recent family vacation or outing allows contacts to see you as a neighbor.

• LinkedIn: The late night guys love joking about ignoring LinkedIn requests, but it’s your way of communicating with other professionals. People who are not necessarily in your field are there, so be sure to put your best foot forward and take part.

Keep in mind: These are just the big three today. Keep an eye on sites like Tumblr, Instagram, and others that are still developing a following. If you see a way to reach out on these sites, and your Broker/Dealers say yes, take the plunge! The main rule is staying firmly on the line between being professional, yet interesting.

Part of your presence in any social network should include interesting and topical articles and news items; if you are a doing things on your own, or have an assistant with other pressing duties, finding interesting items can feel like a full-time job. This is doubled when you factor that many people working in financial fields must have all items, even social media posts, approved by compliance departments.

While brevity is the soul of wit, you needn’t leave any tricks in your bag. Anyone who has spent any time on social media knows the power of images. Think in terms of how you can convey a message in ways that are visually interesting. Information Graphics or Infographics are image files that illustrate a complicated idea, such as significant financial changes, pie charts, and graphs. They can also be used to share pertinent quotes from recent news stories, or words of advice from experts.

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