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As social media continues to rise in the digital age, financial planners are increasingly getting involved on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. However, fears and misconceptions about social media - along with a general uncertainty about exactly what the point is and why planners should get involved - have dramatically slowed advisor adoption. Yet the reality is that there are several simple and clear ways that platforms like Twitter can be used to create value for financial planners - including some easy ways, like helping the news find you and social listening, that pose no compliance hassles or risks, either! Keep reading for some tips about how to get started, what programs to use, and how to get start getting value from Twitter!

The inspiration for today's blog post was a recent conversation I had with a financial planner, who expressed interest in "getting into social media" but was uncertain about exactly why she should do it, what the value would be, or even how to get started.

"The Twitter platform makes it pretty easy for you to get started," I replied, "and you can use Twitter in lots of ways, whether it's to save time finding interesting news and information, finding out what your clients are up to, or trying to start proactively building an audience of prospects you may work with in the future. And the good news is that some strategies don't even present compliance hassles and headaches!"

Helping The News Find You

One easy way as a financial planner to get value from Twitter - without any compliance hassles - is to use it to gather your own information about what's going on in the world. Many planners who regularly consume information via Twitter note that they rarely go to financial or other news sites anymore; instead, they realize that news and information that's important will be shared on Twitter anyway, allowing them to simply watch their Twitter feed and know that the important news will find them!

For instance, most major publications share their content on Twitter already, giving you the opportunity to see the headlines pushed out to you and decide what to look at. More importantly, as noted above, there are people who curate content for financial planners (discussed further below), who focus on sharing content that will be interesting and relevant - saving you the time of scanning the trade publications yourself, and simply letting the content find its way to you by looking at what's being shared in your network!

In Twitter, it's also possible to create "lists" of other people on Twitter, making it even easier to find people to follow by simply looking at the other public lists already made available. For instance, here are two lists you might find useful:

- Financial Planning Practitioners on Twitter - a list of financial planning practitioners already engaged on Twitter (almost 500 of them!)

- FP Twitter Starter List - a list of 20 people/publications on Twitter that share content that may be interesting for financial planners

Social Listening With Clients

Another easy way to get started on Twitter is by engaging in social listening - simply opening your eyes and ears to the messages that your clients are broadcasting by following them on Twitter and hearing what they have to say and share. As with the prior strategy, this doesn't actually involve broadcasting anything out on Twitter - which means there's nothing to deal with or oversee for compliance purposes!

While some advisors might feel uncomfortable about following clients on Twitter - Is it too personal? Is it like stalking them? - it's important to understand the "culture" of Twitter. Unlike Facebook or LinkedIn, where connecting with someone requires you to send a request and for the other person to Accept/Approve it and decide if they want to be connected, Twitter is a more open system. Anyone who has an account can be followed by absolutely anyone else who has an account. The key, of course, is that unless you want to be overwhelmed by all the tweets coming at you, you'll probably only want to follow people who share tweets that are relevant and/or of interest to you. As a result, a natural self-selection process occurs as people opt-in and opt-out of following others based on what is shared. In the Twitter world, choosing to follow someone and keep following them isn't creepy or personal; it's actually a compliment that indicates you value what they have to say and share.

In the context of clients, though, the benefit is that you actually have an easy opportunity to see what's on their minds! Is a client sharing an announcement about a success in her business that means she will need to adjust her financial plan? Are your clients sharing articles about economic and investment worries that suggests it's time for some phone calls or meetings? Seeing what your clients are sharing on Twitter can help you to understand what's important to them, allowing you to use social media as a tool to deepen your client relationship.

Content Curation

While many people use Twitter and social media as a way to distribute the content they create to the world, the reality is that you don't have to create all - or even any - of your own content to have something to share on Twitter. Simply sharing the content that other people have created is still valuable, in a strategy known as content curation.

The basic idea of content curation is that you can help those who follow you by sifting through the tremendous volume of content out there, and sharing what will be relevant and interesting for your audience. If you specialize in working with doctors, you can share not just financial planning content, but articles about how to run a medical practice, how to hire a good office manager, or how to manage time better. If your niche is new parents, your articles might not only include tips on buying a first life insurance policy or starting a college savings plan, but also on childproofing your house and how to find a good baby photographer.

The point is to make yourself highly relevant to your audience, who actively follows you to see what insights and content you'll share next. And in reality, you don't even have to create the content to deliver to them! Simply being a filter in a world of too much information is tremendous value (although because you'll be tweeting out to share content, you'll need to be certain you're meeting your social media compliance requirements now). And when your audience sees you as a resource for information and knows that you provide additional services... guess who they'll contact when they're ready for help!? As some examples, look at how Sheryl Garrett or advisor coaching firm ClientWise curates content for other financial planners on Twitter.

Getting Started Yourself

So what should you do if you want to get started yourself? Here's what to do in 5 easy steps:

1) Simply sign up for a Twitter account, which can be done quickly and easily.

2) Start following people. The aforementioned lists of Financial Planners on Twitter and the FP Twitter Starter List are a good beginning. Of course, you can also follow yours truly as well.

3) Download a program to keep track of what the people you follow are saying on Twitter. Although you can view the tweets directly on the Twitter website, most prefer to use an outside program to make it easier. I recommend TweetDeck; if you're also already active on other sites like Facebook, you might want to try Hootsuite, which lets you post to both Twitter and Facebook from one central platform. If you're viewing from a mobile device, I recommend Plume for Android devices, or the mobile version of TweetDeck (which is available on both Android and iPad platforms).

4) Set up your Twitter programs (from step 3) to view information more easily. For instance, you can use TweetDeck or Hootsuite to follow the aforementioned lists, and make them appear in a separate column than the main "timeline" of tweets broadcast by people you follow. This makes it easier to parse the flow the tweets, especially if/when/as you start following more people. If you want a little more assistance, there are also some easy video tutorials on how to use Twitter and how to use Tweetdeck.

5) Use Twitter! Check in as regularly as you like! Use TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or the Twitter site itself to see what messages and articles are being shared by the people you follow! Follow more people! As you see people mentioned on Twitter, or find them by other means and discover they're active on Twitter, follow them and see if they share material that is interesting to you!

It's also important to note that two of the three strategies discussed here - social listening with clients, and helping the news find you - are ways you can get value from Twitter with no compliance headaches, because you aren't actually broadcasting or sharing anything, which leaves nothing for compliance to oversee whether you are with an RIA or a broker/dealer. Nor do you even have to create the Twitter account with your real name or any personally identifying information (although there's no real reason or need for anonymity either)! On the other hand, if you are going to engage in content curation and share articles, and/or broadcast messages more proactively and further communicate and engage via Twitter, you will at least want to be certain you are compliant with whatever regulatory requirements you are subject to, which at the least will probably require archiving your social media activity, if not more.

So what do you think? Will you give Twitter a try? Are you using Twitter already? Do you use any of these Twitter strategies yourself? What else do you do on Twitter that you find to be valuable? Did you find it easy to get started? Any other tips you'd like to share, or questions you'd like to ask? 

  • Jude Boudreaux

    Nice post Michael. I think these are great ways for planners to get started with twitter. I always suggest they just listen, and start engaging in conversations where they feel appropriate. Respond to people about topics you’re interested in that go beyond money, to restaurants, sports, etc. Just be social!

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Michael E. Kitces

I write about financial planning strategies and practice management ideas, and have created several businesses to help people implement them.

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