Social media is one of the best ways to communicate, network and market your business, but for many of us there are some serious barriers to fully engaging.  

To start, there may be compliance concerns associated with jumping into social media. Then, what if someone says something negative about you online — how do you deal with that? And what about the time commitment? Where are you supposed to find the time to check LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as well as follow all those blogs?

To make the effort worthwhile, you must be strategic. Here are four common barriers to social media engagement and some tips on how to overcome them:

Barrier No. 1: Compliance requirements can be unclear.

Social media networks and tools have created some compliance gray areas for financial professionals, which may make online networking seem like a murky sea to be avoided. But don’t throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. Stop seeing compliance as a barrier to social media and start seeing it as an opportunity to nurture relationships.

First things first: Tweeting about the products you sell is not the most effective way to show people why they would want to do business with you. Instead, use social networks to build your credibility. Get to know your clients better and let them get to know you. Use social networks as a convenient way to reach out, to add value, to connect. Remember, people do business with people they know, like and trust. Leave the transactional heavy lifting — that is, whatever conversations you need to have with your client in order for him or her to make an informed product or investment decision — to traditional channels like face-to-face meetings, telephone calls and email.

Lastly, whatever you do on social media, make sure you can archive it, store it and retrieve it. That’s the first step in keeping the compliance people happy.

Barrier No. 2: Conversations in social media cannot be controlled.

You need to understand — and accept — that you cannot control online conversations, user-generated content or even search results about yourself. Don’t let this lack of control dissuade you from participating in social media.

Instead, focus on what you can control:

  • You CAN participate in online dialogue.
  • You CAN inspire people about your brand.
  • You CAN respond, reply and engage.

Social media is a conversation between you and your market. It’s a two-sided affair that demands your participation and engagement. Don’t give up your voice in the conversation just because you can’t control the outcome.

Barrier No. 3: There’s no time for social media.

As professionals, we are very busy people. Time is the most valuable and scarcest commodity in our day-to-day work lives. So, how can it make sense to spend your precious time in front of the computer chatting with people?

Social media engagement does take time, but there are compelling reasons for you to make work it into your schedule. For one, social networks are convenient. They alleviate the need to travel as much in order to maintain connections with important people in your network. And social networking helps you leverage your time; when you’re having public exchanges within your network, many people can listen in and observe. Social media done right actually makes you more efficient with your time.

Here are some suggestions for making time for social media:

  • Re-evaluate ALL your time allocations. You may love golfing, but is it always the most efficient way to stay in touch with many clients and prospects?
  • Use your support team to help you. Learning how to leverage your team will make you smarter and more efficient.
  • Burn some midnight oil. There’s a learning curve with social media and you may need to put in a little after hours time to figure it out.
  • Outsource. Consultants, specialists and third-party services can be helpful if you understand the vital role you have to play and then hire out to enhance your capacity.

Barrier No. 4: You don’t know what to say.

Many accomplished professionals feel out of their element in social networks. What should you say on Twitter? Maybe you don’t feel like you’re much of a writer. Perhaps you are a bit technophobic.

Admittedly, there’s a lot to learn in social – new tools, new etiquette, new people to meet and new ways to meet them.

But here’s the good news: Everything you ever wanted to know about social media is available online and mostly for free. Try experimenting personally with social media tools — connect with your friends and family — and get the hang of sharing in an online space.

Remember that your unique perspective on the world is precisely what your social networks want from you. It’s why your clients do business with you and refer you to others. It’s the very basis of your personal brand on which you’ve built your success thus far.

Your most important goal in social media is this: to unleash your personal brand. No one else can do it for you. It’s time to get started.

See also:

How to leverage LinkedIn

Why your social media strategy may be failing

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