Editor’s Note: We welcome back contributor Joyce Sullivan as she continues her effort in breaking down the fundamentals of social networks for financial professionals. Twitter happens to be my own favorite as well – largely due to the ability to get real-time insights on news, events and as Ms. Sullivan alludes to, hashtags and keywords that highlight financial services activity on social media. A good way to get a look into industry-focused Twitter activity would be to take a look across our own Thought Leaders here at The DigitalFA. From this sampling, lookup our own account, @thedigitalfa, as well as @blano, @bryan_mills, @dfishrockstar, @toddgreider and @scottmckain.
Advisers’ adoption of social media continues to grow at an accelerated rate, yet many have questions about how to get started after creating a profile. With each social network advisers are left to learn different rules — both regulatory and for effective communication — adding complexity and uncertainty about how to best participate. This is particularly true for advisers getting started with Twitter, the most dynamic and frenetic social network of them all.
While LinkedIn is often described as a type of modern Rolodex for organizing professional relationships and Facebook is well-understood at least on a functional level as the place where friends and loved ones post vacation photos, Twitter remains perplexing for many. However, it’s impossible to ignore Twitter altogether—a network that already claims more than 645 million unique users with steady double-digit growth every quarter. Of particular interest to financial advisers, this growth is being spurred predominantly by older demographics, with an 80 percent increase in 55-64 age users last year alone.
Clients are flocking to Twitter — why aren’t advisers?
Despite this huge opportunity, according to a 2013 study by Putnam Investments only 20 percent of financial advisers are currently using Twitter for business purposes, trailing other major social networks such as LinkedIn (95%), Google+ (31%) and Facebook (29%) by a significant margin.
Research demonstrates that clients are flocking to Twitter, so why aren’t advisers following suit as quickly? There are several factors not the least of which is firms’ readiness to enable advisers on social. Fortunately, firms such as Morgan Stanley are providing a blueprint to help others succeed on Twitter. Other factors include Twitter’s unique lexicon of @ replies and hashtags that can be overwhelming for new users and the question of who to ‘follow’ in order to start building a network of relevant contacts.
Still, with such a ripe opportunity for advisers to meet clients where they are, “listen” to valuable information and conversations being shared on Twitter and increase reach and visibility with clients and prospects, Twitter is certainly worth the upfront time investment for those willing to try something new.
Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Know Your Audience: Never Stop Listening
The most common question I receive from advisers getting started on social media is “what will I say?” when the reality is it’s far more important to become a diligent listener. Do yourself a favor and start by ‘listening’ (monitoring, following, etc.) to the conversations taking place online.
How do I listen? Get acquainted with the magic of hashtags. You have probably seen these in a variety of places — TV programming, newspapers and sporting events are just a few examples. By adding a ‘#’ symbol (known as a ‘hash’ or ‘pound sign’) before any word, you can both increase the visibility of your tweets and filter Twitter to bring up conversations that only have that word in it.
For example, when I’m sharing content intended for financial advisers, I use #FA (a popular tag for financial adviser content) or #finserv (short for financial services) or just #Financial. You can identify relevant hashtags by using Twitter’s robust search feature (search.twitter.com). Here’s an example when I search using #finserv, a popular tag for financial services content conversations. Note how #finserv is highlighted in the tweet stream and sorted by most recently sent.
Other hashtags with which you should be familiar for research include:
- You may also begin noticing popular financial services abbreviations such as #HNW (High Net Worth) or #RIA
As you’re listening, click on the profiles that look interesting. This will give you ideas of how you may want to set up your own Twitter profile. Remember, you’re still in the listening and learning mode here, so you don’t even need an active Twitter account to start the process.
Twitter Profiles 101: You Are Your Online Profile.
Similar to LinkedIn, you want your Twitter profile to have a great profile photo and a background shot that is professional and inviting. Of course, before you embark on setting up an online profile on any popular social network (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) check with your firm’s marketing and compliance departments to understand their social media policy and rules of engagement. Once you’ve completed your required documentation and training, you can begin planning your profile and online presence.
Choosing a name. As you may know, Twitter uses a unique, ‘open’ system for communicating structure around the symbol ‘@’ followed by your chosen user name to direct messages to another user (e.g. “Hi @JohnDoe, I enjoyed your latest blog post.”). While your user name can be any combination of characters (so long as it isn’t already claimed by another entity), you should choose something that both makes it easy for your contacts to find you and tells others that encounter your tweets who you are. For example, you may choose to use your first and last name followed by your occupation, firm or location (e.g. @JohnDoeFA or @Janes_InvestmentCo). You should try to limit the length of your profile name as much as possible as those characters count against the 140-character allotment when another user replies to you.
Have an engaging profile photo. Don’t use last year’s vacation photo, instead chose a professional headshot that reflects your personality. I highly recommend having one social media profile photo (or ‘avi’ short for avatar) across all your channels. I use the same one on my LinkedIn so that my contacts will easily recognize me across the various platforms I use for social media connecting.
Your Bio: The Elevator Pitch in 160 characters. Unlike other social networks, Twitter bio length restrictions (160 characters total) require you to keep this very brief. Make sure to include your professional info along with a few ‘humanizing’ facts.
Note how my bio includes both my professional affiliation as well as some details to convey my interests and personality. Remember, the goal is to give your followers/readers another glimpse into who you are.
Don’t Forget Your Website. This is a simple ‘cheat’ to get around Twitter’s restrictive character count for Bios, but it’s often overlooked. Most would agree it’s impossible to accurately capture who someone is in a few sentences; a workaround is to include a link to a website or other location where your users can find more info about you. Perhaps it is your practice’s website or your LinkedIn profile. You want to make it easy for those who find you to learn more about your specialties and interests.
Lesser-known Twitter Tips / Tricks
On Twitter, the beginning is the end…
Never start a tweet with a @. One of the biggest mistakes people make on Twitter is starting a tweet with the ‘@’ symbol when replying or directing a tweet to another person. When you do this, your tweet will only be visible to the account you tweet and users that follow both you and the user you are mentioning, hugely limiting your potential reach. Instead, you may want to restructure the wording of your tweets/replies (e.g. “Thanks @TheDigitalFA) so that your tweet is visible to your entire network. If you want to have a 1-1 Twitter discussion with another account, a direct message might be more appropriate. Remember, you want the largest audience possible to see your posts, so set up your tweet so we can all see your important info and messages.
Keep your tweets to 120 characters or less. Wait, I thought tweets could be up to 140 characters?! You are correct, but if you want to maximize the sharing potential of your tweets, you’ll want to allow for extra characters so your network can add context and re-share your content with their networks.
The Journey Begins: Your First Tweet
OK, you’ve been listening, you have your profile set up and it’s going through compliance review and approval. Now you’re ready to tweet. Where do you start?
Before you start following and building your network, I always recommend you post your first tweet so anyone considering following you knows you are a real person. After your photo, bio and web link, it’s the first thing folks will see about you. Try to keep it simple and engaging with a touch of your personality.
For my first tweet, back in 2008 (yes, Twitter does archive these for you and it is easy to get a copy of your archived tweets) I wrote:
Moving From Online to Offline
Twitter has taken me virtually around the world and introduced me to incredible people. Over time, I’ve met many of them in person. The power of social media is the ability to reach new and unexpected audiences, then forging relationships based on perceived value, unique experiences and mutual interests. For financial advisers, these conversations can then be transitioned ‘offline’ where you can better understand clients’ needs and goals and accurately convey your services, personal touch and experience — without worrying about fitting it into 140 characters.
At the very least, I hope this article will encourage you to:
- Listen: find the topics you’re interested in through hashtag searches,
- Create: put your profile together so you are findable and interesting, and
- Engage: start with that first tweet and begin to follow others who are interesting to you.
I’ll write more soon with other Twitter tips that will help you to engage and grow your audience and your online influence.