Surprisingly, one of the greatest prospecting and networking tools ever created is just a few years old. LinkedIn (linkedin.com) has rapidly gained prominence as the most-used social media site for business owners and professionals. Unfortunately, many financial professionals still have difficulty turning the LinkedIn tool into a successful marketing strategy for them and their businesses.

Some advisors are hampered by compliance issues, others still see social media as a passing fad, and many more simply don’t know where to start.

As far as compliance concerns go, many broker dealers and even wirehouses have adopted social media use policies over the past few years that allow registered reps to use some social media sites. Of these, LinkedIn is the most widely accepted and allowed, so check with your compliance department to see what you are allowed to do.

And social media as a fad? File this one under wishful thinking. According to several recent surveys, nearly half of the world’s population uses at least one social media outlet to communicate with others. In the United States, sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have hundreds of millions of registered users, and these numbers continue to grow daily.

For those who don’t know where to start, this common excuse can be quickly remedied. Follow these quick-and-easy tips to create near instantaneous results:

  • Create a LinkedIn account. Be sure to complete the entire profile to include any and all pertinent information, work experience and personal photo.
  • Once your account is created, it is really easy to import your Outlook or similar contact file into LinkedIn. This will allow you to invite everyone you know, work with or interact with to join your LinkedIn network. Think of your network as just that: a network of family, friends and business associates that can help you grow and market your business.
  • Next, use the LinkedIn search function to find individuals and businesses you would like to do business with. Once you find the desired contact, see who in your network already knows them and can be used to gain a favorable introduction. Repeat this step over and over again as you continue to grow and expand your network.

Sound easy enough for you? Case in point, I recently wanted to work with a local bank. They fall into the mid-size regional category and have about 30 branches. I didn’t know anyone in management there, so I used my LinkedIn group to find someone who did. As it turned out, one of my neighbors was connected via his network to the bank’s vice president of insurance & investments — exactly who I wanted to talk to. A quick phone call later, and I was scheduled to meet my neighbor and his friend, the bank VP, for lunch. The meeting went well and the VP was interested. Long story short, I now provide the insurance brokerage services for this bank and have used the relationship to gain access to several other banks in my area — all because of LinkedIn.

So what are you waiting for? Get started today and start growing your network and your business.

Editor’s Note: You can also join Life Insurance Selling’s LinkedIn group to connect with industry colleagues, discuss selling and prospecting ideas, and post job openings. Click here to join.

Ryan Pinney, CSFP, is a three-time MDRT Top of the Table qualifier. His company, Pinney Insurance Center, is a national brokerage general agency that provides sales concepts, underwriting support and proprietary tools to assist agents and financial advisors. Pinney is also on the advisory board to www.wholesaleinsurance.net, one of the nation’s largest direct to consumer life insurance websites. He can be reached at (800) 823-4852 or by email at rpinney@pinneyinsurance.com.

To read last week’s Words from the Wise, click here.

For more about using social media for your business, see:

Some rules for financial advisors using social networking

Points that help you sell: How to win Facebook friends and influence bloggers

Building a tech-savvy business in the digital age