Reckless use of social media harming investors: CSA

As financial services firms develop social media programs, more financial advisors are establishing an active social media presence.

But before you jump into the fray, you need to determine how you can implement a strategy that reflects who you are while following your firm’s mandate.

Every firm has its own social media policy that regulates what’s considered appropriate: gifs, memes and other humorous content may be a no-no; wise quotes from financial luminaries and infographics that explain difficult concepts usually are acceptable.

There may be strong guardrails in place to prevent you from veering into hazardous terrain, but you have to develop an instinct for determining what will resonate with or repel clients and potential prospects.

There’s no uniform set of rules on what is acceptable. But whether you use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or other platforms, here are some tips for staying relevant — and compliant — on social media:

> Treat social media as a public forum
Always operate under the assumption that you are speaking to a wide audience. If a client initiates a conversation on social media about a particular product or service, avoid giving advice over that channel.

Instead, offer to continue the discussion privately — by email or in person — says Amy McIlwain, global industry principal at Hootsuite in New York.

After all, says McIlwain, social media isn’t meant to replace face-to-face interactions, but to enhance or facilitate connections beyond traditional channels.

> Address your core audience
McIlwain likens the process of choosing content for social media to the role of a radio-station disk jockey. “You’re a ‘content DJ’,” McIlwain says. “You’re filtering through the barrage of content and sharing the very best articles, like the very best songs, for your audience.”

Engaging directly with that core demographic means being selective and purposeful about the articles you share. With every post, McIlwain says, think about how it ties back to your personal brand.

For example, if your client base consists of retirees and baby boomers, you might post educational pieces that address the concerns they face.

> Resist knee-jerk reactions
Social media thrives on users’ impulse to react to news or weigh in on a debate. But, as much as you may want to demonstrate how plugged in you are with current events, you must remain thoughtful about your comments.

Don’t be the snarky couch critic who sounds off on hot-button issues without offering any substance. Avoid using social media to broadcast your frustrations or grievances, says Peter Kahnert, senior vice president of corporate communications at Raymond James in Toronto.

For example, rather than complain about government economic policy, you might offer up an article that discusses investing in a low interest-rate environment.

> Be relatable
Social media, by design, is intended to showcase aspects of your personality. So, McIlwain says, don’t neglect the social side of social media.

Within reason, you can weave in content that expresses your interests and hobbies outside of work. And, depending on your firm’s stance, McIlwain says, you might share photos from your office or client events to give people a sense of the kind of practice you run.

This is the first part in a two-part series on social media. Next: Working with compliance to develop your social media strategy

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