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Social media can help you build networks and raise your professional game at warp speed — if you do it right. Case in point: Just a few months ago, I met Steve Dunlap, founder of Stratym Strategic Consulting, on Twitter. We quickly realized we share a couple of major interests — wealth management and social media — and we had a friend in common. As Steve mentions below, that was all it took and we were soon bantering in public tweets and private messages. We later had a long conversation on Skype and since then have worked together on several projects.
Steve has played key executive roles at multiple wealth management industry firms. He has formerly held positions as EVP of Wealth Management at Cetera, CEO of Tower Square Investment Management, and CEO of Lockwood Advisors. Because I thought wealth managers and executives could learn a lot from Steve’s story about “going social,” I asked him for advice for others looking to make the same journey.
Learning and networking: These two things are at the heart of social media. It opens up your world in an instant. Ignore it and you will be at a competitive disadvantage to rivals who master it, says Dunlap. Read on to learn more about how to get started with LinkedIn and Twitter, how to create a posting strategy, and how to engage others through your social media presence.
April Rudin: Let’s start with “Why?” Many people wonder what the social media fuss is all about.
Steve Dunlap: People fail to grasp that social is not just a cute way of exchanging whimsical thoughts and kitten pictures. Rather, it offers powerful new ways of making contacts, building relationships, discovering new ideas, and listening to specific communities, so it is completely changing the way business is done. Business people already do these four things, but social is turbo-charging the manner in which they are accomplished. That is why people who “go social” have an edge in business, and why your readers need to pay attention, whether they are C-suite executives, financial advisers, or ambitious middle managers.
Can you give me an example?
How about our relationship? We met on Twitter because of our mutual business interest in wealth management, and rapidly developed a rapport based on our mutual friendship with Cheryl Nash. We were soon bantering like we had known each other for years, via Twitter direct messaging. That exchange led to me mentioning the Rudin Group in my article about social, which led to a long Skype conversation, and then to this interview and collaboration on other projects.
Think about the blinding speed of that progression. Building a relationship like this could have taken years, but on social, it took about two months, lubricated by Twitter, LinkedIn, and Skype. And it is not unusual! If your readers are not building business relationships by going social, they’ll soon be at a competitive and career disadvantage to those that do.
What are the mechanics of “going social”? How did you get started?
It was slow and haphazard for me. I joined LinkedIn in 2006 and Twitter in 2012, but didn’t use them much until recently. Your readers should be much more purposeful. They can sign up for Twitter and LinkedIn in five minutes. Later, when they get the hang of it, they should experiment with tools like Hootsuite and Tweepi. Getting started, focus on only two things: learning and networking — just as they would when attending a “real world” conference.
My instruction manual for going social was a book co-written by Ted Coiné, who was a college buddy of mine. It’s called A World Gone Social, and I highly recommend it. In fact, my reconnecting with Ted is another example of the power of social. Twitter rekindled an existing relationship from decades ago, and it turns out my old friend is a huge success in the social world, focusing on entrepreneurship and leadership. He has been very generous with his relationships and advice, which has helped me in my social journey. This sort of “relentless giving” is an important part of the social culture, and one of the reasons why it’s so powerful.
So few people in financial services use social media. Why?
It’s not just in financial services, but I agree that we are at the back of the pack. This means going social is a significant opportunity for us because it’s still possible to be a relatively early adopter. Usage among financial advisers is growing, but still a minority. Among C-suite executives, it’s incredibly rare, which makes it more interesting when they do show up on Twitter. If you’re an executive, people want to know what you think. If you’re a financial adviser, relationships and knowledge are the fuel that grows your practice. Social provides all of these things at digital speed.
For executives or financial advisers, how should they get started?
I was self-taught, but that was slow and rocky. I made stupid mistakes, like the time I accidentally tweeted a message that was intended to be a private note. The message wasn’t salacious or dramatic, but still, it was embarrassing. So skip the school of hard knocks and consider hiring a professional.
There are many firms out there that will help your readers learn quickly and establish a clear plan with concrete goals. This is critical because your social media presence is part of your personal brand, and your brand is everything.
After people set up social accounts, they’re often nervous about what to post. What do you suggest?
When you’re doing your morning reading, take an extra few seconds and tweet about interesting articles. Include your opinion or a compliment for the author or someone who was quoted in the article. Pick two or three topics and “curate” content on your feeds so people come to know you as a source of good information on your chosen topics.
When you tweet, mention people by name using their Twitter handle, and include hashtags for the topic. People you mention will appreciate it, which may lead to new relationships. Hashtags, like #roboadvisor, are used to find relevant content, which will help people find you.
What about compliance?
Check with your firm’s compliance department to learn more about their social media policy, or if you’re independent, hire someone to create one. It’s easier for executives than advisers, because they are more likely to tweet about industry issues than investment advice. But in most cases, the rule of thumb is that if it’s compliant offline, it’s compliant online.
What about the different platforms? Which is best?
LinkedIn is an absolute must for anyone in business, so do that first. And pay attention to the details on your LinkedIn page, because it is often your first impression.
Next is Twitter. It is the best tool for doing what I suggest above: learning and networking. Use it to build relationships, learn new things, and build your social platform. For business people, everything beyond LinkedIn and Twitter should be considered optional.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/runeer
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