Many financial advisors have social-media accounts, but avoid full participation for fear of running afoul of the regulations, according to Bruce Milne, executive vice-president of Socialware in Austin, Tex. But if you are not embracing social media, you are missing out on opportunities to build deeper client relationships, connect with prospects and stay abreast of developments in your industry.

Milne, whose company provides software that helps advisors and firms remain compliant on social media, offers four steps to embracing these platforms — without breaking the rules:

1. Find out if your firm has a social-media policy
Ask your compliance representative if he or she has a statement of policy that can be sent to you, Milne says.

Such a document will provide a guideline you can follow regarding the content of posts and the way in which you represent yourself and the firm. However, Milne says, social media changes so quickly it is hard for firms and their policies to keep up.

So, if you have a concern that is not covered by your firm’s policy, play it safe by asking your compliance representative.

For example, if your firm’s policy is more than two years old, it may not have a specific stated position on accepting endorsements on LinkedIn. While many Canadian advisors use this feature, find out your firm’s position.

2. Check your profile information
Make sure you identify yourself, your position and your firm correctly in your LinkedIn profile.

“Use your business card as a guide for what your title should be and how to represent the firm,” Milne says.

Submit your profile biography to your marketing department for review. The person who examines your content will check the accuracy of the details you present. Pay close attention to your certifications, education and experience.

3. Check for pre-approved content
Not sure what to post? Your firm’s marketing department might provide content that has been developed and approved by the firm. This content might include market updates or tips on budgeting and saving.

4. Find out what you need to submit for approval
Your firm will want to know about any references you make to products or specific recommendations regarding personal finance, Milne says, because those topics reflect on the firm’s reputation. Get someone from marketing to look over your potential post.

Direct exchanges between yourself and another person do not require approval. So, if a client responds to a tweet about your expansion into insurance, you can send a follow-up tweet without any intervention from your firm.

If your firm uses a third-party social-media monitoring platform such as Socialware or Actiance, these conversations will be archived and can be retrieved later should a legal issue ever arise.

Don’t worry about the content that is meant to express your personal side, such as an article on your favourite athlete or a review of a local restaurant.

“The firm doesn’t need to preview that stuff,” Milne says. But do post such content, he adds: “It’s the sort of thing that makes you an individual and gives you a personality on social media.”