San Francisco: “Everything I read is telling me about what I should be doing to grow my business online,” began Miguel as we concluded a presentation on the LinkedIn. He continued, “Tweet this, share that, like those. I get it! There is a lot of opportunity online for advisors. I just don’t want to be perceived as one of those new-age social media nerds or one of those sharks always looking for business online. Are there things that I should avoid doing?”
Even with the angst in Miguel’s voice, this was a refreshing conversation. All too often, we see advisors rush into social media with little plan. They get involved, on the hunt for prospects, and fall flat on their face.
What we stressed to Miguel is the concept of inversion. The renowned Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s right hand man, swears by the concept and even gave a Harvard commencement speech using the idea. He gave them a prescription for misery which included recommendations such as “Be unreliable. Do not faithfully do what you have engaged to do.” Oftentimes, when we take a look at what “not” to do, we arrive at what “to do” naturally.
The following are some common social media faux pas we’ve seen advisors make over the past few years. By reviewing these and inverting, we can learn from our mistakes and ensure we avoid them.
1. Pitching Your Wares
This may seem a little contradictory to the thousands of consultant blogs out there, but it’s true. Make sure you post news and other relevant information for your connections to see. Your goal is to be a resource. The last thing you want is to be “that guy” or “that gal” blatantly selling his or her services. Think of your social media presence in parallel with a cocktail party online. If you were at a real life cocktail party you wouldn’t stand up on a table and proclaim your services to be superior to your competition. Well, we hope not anyway! Instead, you would build rapport, be subtle, and look for the opportune moment to add value.
2. Dialing for Dollars
We ran into a blog the other day (we won’t mention any names) for advisors using social media which recommended cold calling your connection’s connections. We do extensive research to understand how affluent investors make major decisions, and it always comes down to word-of-mouth influence. There must be rapport-building and a credibility transfer that occurs. Cold calling connections through social networks like LinkedIn is a surefire way to start the relationship off on the wrong foot. Instead, think face-to-face introductions.
3. What Happens in Vegas...Ends Up on Facebook
You’ve got to keep it professional. Obviously, there can be a personal element to your profile, especially on sites such as Facebook or blogs like Tumblr, but keep in mind that you aren’t the only one searching for you online. Pictures get passed around or “tagged” with your name by other people. Create an online presence that you would feel comfortable letting your best clients look at.
4. Neglect it
This is probably the largest mistake we see advisors make. Social media is by no means a silver bullet to propel your business. Just like anything else, you have to invest time and energy into continually building new connections, posting on a regular basis, joining and contributing to groups. Think of social media as your new networking group - in order to be successful you have to work the room.
This is not 2005. Building a network of people you really don’t know isn’t an effective way to use social networks as an advisor. Building a network of people you know through your current connections will, but it’s going to take some time and dedication. Don’t get a reputation online as the person who is building a network just to have 2,000 “friends” to pitch. Not to mention, some sites will ban you. Think quality over quantity.
6. No Customization
Coming across as ”canned” is something worth avoiding. Add a personal flair to your profile and make sure that when you send friend or LinkedIn requests, customize it! If you are attempting to connect with a prospect with whom you want to build a relationship with, review their profile and send them a message that’s pertinent to them. Don’t stick with the automated message - customize it.
7. Subtle Like a Brick
As you gather intelligence online, make sure you subtly use the information to accelerate the rapport-building process when face-to-face. Reciting their work history and organizational involvements is borderline stalker status. If you notice they went to the same college you did, you might ask “So, did you go to school around here?” to get that conversation rolling. If you want to edge on intruder status you would say, “I see you went to University of Massachusetts from 1990-1994 and received a MBA with an emphasis in marketing.” You get the point.
8. TMI (Too Much Information)
Don’t be the person who posts every detail of his day in his “status update”. As intriguing as it might be to know you are having a ham sandwich for lunch, no one else is interested. Keep it professional and show some personality, but within reason.
9. Spelling Bee Loser
Whenever you post anything online make sure you give it a good spell check. Even though it might be an insignificant “typo” your connections will form opinions.
10. Too Kool for School
This is the profile of someone who tries to be “more than he or she is” with their online presence. Their social networking page really isn’t a good representation of themselves or personality. Remember, your page should be an authentic extension of yourself (not the picture of you leaving on a Ferrari).
As you may have noticed, when you invert it’s easy to have a little bit of fun, and we did with a few of the above. However, each of these 10 Social Media Faux Pas’ prove an important point. Elite advisors understand the subtlety of this medium as well as the importance of their reputation. Social media is growing at a phenomenal rate, and as advisors begin to embrace these technologies, it is important that they understand the do’s and don’ts.