I recently participated on several panels focused on how advisors can use social media. This can be a complicated subject, especially considering the variety of ways advisors can adopt and leverage social media.

Advisors had many questions during the panels: How do you start? What about compliance issues? Do you need to be a power social media user? Does social media really matter? Let’s take an opportunity to address these important questions.

Where do you start with social media?

That’s a loaded question. The answer depends on what you are trying to accomplish. For the “entry level” user, a good first step is gathering information. Learn how others (including advisors, financial institutions, press, etc.) are using the technology. For example, you can start by viewing how they use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. Then you are better equipped to decide how you should use the technology and what “presence” your firm should have on the various platforms.

It’s important to have a strategy. For example, should your Twitter handle be your name or your firm’s name? Should you set up two accounts? Again, the answer is “it depends,” but whatever you decide will become a new identification address for you and your firm.

How a firm handles compliance is often where plans for using social media die on the vine. A lot of angst is due to simply not knowing the best approach to meeting social media compliance obligations. First, look to your existing compliance providers. Frequently, the same companies you use to meet compliance obligations related to email have similar solutions for social media.

Make sure you update your firm’s written supervisory procedures to include social media. Important details may include who is allowed to use social media on behalf of the firm as well the approval and review process. Be sure to include social media when you confirm that you are archiving all communication information for your firm.

Perhaps one of the most overwhelming aspects of social media is understanding how frequent your firm should post information. Aspiring to be a “power social media user,” where you post messages daily, is not necessary for everyone. It is best to understand the expectations of your audience. Consider incorporating social media with everything you are already doing from a marketing and communication perspective. For example, if your firm is sending an email to your clients highlighting a recent article in which you were quoted, post it on your LinkedIn page and Twitter, too.

Perhaps the most common question during the social media panels was whether it really matters if your firm uses social media. The answer to this question is debatable, but it is important to consider the nominal direct costs and minimal time involved.

One initial benefit of social media is that you will know your followers, which can provide some interesting information for your firm. However, remember there is a much larger group that could be viewing your posts who you might not know directly. For example, your tweets can be viewed without having to follow your firm; your next client or the beneficiary of your existing client might review your social media presence before they contact you. In fact, you are hearing more examples of advisors getting new clients whose first “touch point” began with a social media channel.

At minimum, advisors should consider having some presence on the more common social media platforms—at least pick one. In addition, do not expect immediate results or even a significant response from your clients or prospects. Too often advisors get discouraged because of a lack of response. If you have something to share, do it, and don’t worry about how many “likes” or “retweets” you receive.