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One of the keys to social media is to put your fears aside and just get started. It’s a rapidly changing world with millions of conversations going on. Social media can be scary, but the best way to learn is to jump in from a consumer standpoint. Start with yourself, find things that matter to you, interact with like-minded people and share your thoughts and opinions. Keep in mind that what you say and do online is visible to everyone, so while interacting via social media can be fun and spontaneous, always be conscious of your personal brand and how you will be perceived.

Here are four tips that will help you get started:

  1. Create personal accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc…).  If you already have accounts, congratulations! You have already taken the first step, and you will not run into compliance issues if these are strictly personal. Any references to your company (including a professional bio, website link, etc…) or any financial advice that you give may immediately put you over the line to what FINRA would classify as advertising. When it comes to content like this, you must abide by your broker dealers social media policy and FINRA guidelines. Make sure you understand the rules and guidelines set by FINRA and your broker dealer before developing a social media presence, as you wouldn’t want to do anything to put yourself in violation of these rules. 
  2. Start generating searches for things that interest you on each platform.  Personally, I’m interested in cycling, soccer, social media tips, financial tips, scuba diving and traveling.  I have found all of my soccer teams, cycling brands, news and media sources, and diving communities on Twitter and Facebook.  I follow and participate in conversations with them.
  3. Put social media to work for you to stay current on things that matter to you.  You could spend minutes or hours each week searching the Internet for things that interest you. On the other hand, with social media and blog RSS feeds; you can “like” on Facebook, “follow” on Twitter or LinkedIn, and subscribe to your favorite blogs (via Google Reader), and you’ll begin to receive regular updates as these sources update their content. This can save you a lot of time, and means that information is literally at your fingertips on your computer, iPad, or smartphone.  Personally, I do not scour the Internet looking for things very often. I have subscribed, followed, and connected with people and brands that interest me, so almost everything I need to keep me informed comes to me automatically. Now it’s up to me to check my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google Reader feeds to see what’s going on. 
  4. Now that you understand how it works as a consumer, apply what you have learned to your business.  When applying social media to your business, think back to how you interacted with the people, communities and brands that matter to you. Put yourself in the shoes of your clients and prospects. Ask yourself “If they were searching for information or help in better understanding their finances, where and how would they search? What would they need?”  Come up with that answer and you can begin to build a strategy to deliver content in areas that are accessible to your audience. 

So, take the leap of faith, trust your instincts and start making the most of the tools available to you, both personally and professionally. I recently came across a great quote by the author Robert Anthony who said “Waiting is a trap. There will always be reasons to wait. The truth is, there are only two things in life, reasons and results, and reasons simply don’t count.” 

Those who wait get left behind. The only question is, will you be the one waiting or will you be the one leading the path to success?

 

For more from Todd Greider, see:

The (Regulatory) Rules of Social Media

Why You Should Care About Your Online Brand

LinkedIn Success in 5 Simple Steps