Should Advisors Give Financial Advice In Social Media? You Bet, Despite What You Might Have Heard Elsewhere Hot

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Criticizing another writer in this business is not high on my list of to-dos. Three years ago, after writing in an article that a tech writer for advisors got key facts wrong on a security issue affecting RIAs, it wound up being portrayed in the trade press as a “war of words” and has resulted in my getting less favorable coverage in the trade pubs. So please understand that I am not saying the author of the article is an idiot or evil. But the story — especially the headline — is misguided.


Nearly every big brand, from the American Automobile Association to Zyrtec, has a social media presence nowadays. AAA tweets about gas prices, auto safety, and car insurance; Zyrtec, a medicine for allergy sufferers, has Android and iPhone apps to tell you the pollen count and a Facebook “fan” page. Just as these companies provide news and ideas using the social Web, so, too, should advisors.
The errant article says advisors should be using social to write about “human interest” stories, like a charity car wash or a footrace to raise money for a good cause. To be sure, advisors do want to post social content about charitable activities. Associating your name with a good good is the right thing to do in life and also happens to  be good marketing. But how many charity events are you involved in? How many cars can you wash and races can you run
Your tweet stream should consist of a combination of personal and professional ideas. A picture of your child graduating from high-school, a video of your family singing happy 35th anniversary to your parents, or a photo of your 60-pound French Poodle trying to sit in a bed made for your 10-pound Yorkshire Terrier are examples of human interest content that people might enjoy.
But be careful not to  “overshare.” Too much personal information, if it is going to professional contacts, should be avoided. As Bob Powell said in a post last week, tweeting about your pedicure and foot massage seems a good place to draw the line if you're talking to a professional network or potential clients.
Also, don’t rate politicians or take on issues like abortion without deep thought because half the people who read what you say are likely to be offended.
And don't tell people you just took your dog for a walk or did something else mundane. No one cares!
If you're using social media for marketing, try to focus on personal news you are proud of and tell people about ideas that can help them.
Do not avoid discussing all things financial, but mix it up with some personal information you are proud of.
Of course, advisors disseminating information via social media must abide by advertising compliance rules, just as they would with any communication — faxes, phones, or cups attached by string. That means avoiding mention of specific securities, partnerships, derivatives or investment returns. While those regulatory no-no’s pertain specifically to FINRA regulated advisors, RIAs would be wise to mind them as well.
Avoiding touchy regulatory topics won’t cramp your style because pitching products is not the way you want to you use social media anyway. Social media is about helping people you want to serve, not selling them stuff. Social media is giving away information that shows your expertise and helps people.
Tweeting about last week’s jobs report, which triggered a selloff in stocks, might be what you know about. Railing in a blog post and status updates against high fees charged by wirehouses for separately managed accounts might be more to your liking. Or maybe you want to focus on financial habits of doctors. The number of wealth management topics you can and should tweet about is limited only by your imagination.  
Will it work for you? Will it bring you business? Alas, there are no guarantees. It depends largely on how good you are at communicating and targeting your market.
Personally, I've found LinkedIn to be an excellent medium for content that advisors seem to like. I typically get a couple of connection requests daily, and people I speak with mention my status updates to me all the time. So what I am saying is borne of experience and I believe it, which is crucial to disseminating valuable information that will attract new clients.
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