Social Media and the Boundary Waters? Know What You’re Getting Into

About 10 years ago, I joined my college buddies on a spring canoe trip in the Boundary Waters. I couldn’t resist after hearing countless stories about camping under the stars, nightly fish frys and out-of-this world fishing.

To prepare, I talked to my buddies. They said to bring fishing gear, sleeping bag, light clothing and some food. Everything had to fit into a canoe, so I shouldn’t over-pack. Was that a mistake!

That spring happened to be extremely cold and dry in the Boundary Waters. My light-weight sleeping bag wasn’t nearly warm enough for the 30 degree nights, and my shorts and t-shirts weren’t worn at all due to the cold, snowy days. My fishing gear was adequate, but we only caught enough fish for two fish frys due to low water levels, so we ate a lot of noodles.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it was still a fun and memorable trip. In hindsight, I should have researched the trip more before jumping into it with both feet. Advisors, maybe the same can be said for your first foray into social media.

Social media, know what you’re getting into

If you’re an advisor just getting into social media, take some time to research before jumping in. After all, there’s a lot to know. Start by educating yourself on some of the common social platforms:

  • What platforms are your clients on?
  • What opportunity do these platforms offer you (research, networking, branding)?
  • How would you use these platforms?
  • What best practices should you be aware of?
  • How much time should you commit to social media?

Registered Representatives can leverage social media

Next, it’s extremely important to understand what you can and can’t do as a Registered Representative. Unfortunately, securities regulators haven’t made it easy, nor have many financial services compliance or legal departments. And it seems like every firm has slightly different policies or rules when it comes to social media.

In general, here’s what you need to know:

  • As a Registered Representative, you can participate in social media – you’re just limited in what you can and can’t say;
  • Consider any social media activity a ‘public appearance’ – don’t say or do anything you wouldn’t say or do in front of a room full of clients;
  • Work with your compliance department – make sure you understand your firm’s social policies; and
  • Many firms now have social monitoring tools in place – these tools archive your social media posts behind the scenes to help protect you and your firm.

Again, this is important as securities regulators are now spot-checking social media activity.

A little research up front will save you heartache down the road

A good understanding of how you can benefit from social media, and what you can do, should help you navigate the turbulent social media waters. Moreover, it will give you confidence. My advice is to start slow and use a social media strategy. Good luck!

What’s holding you back from leveraging social media? Are you navigating securities and compliance guidelines? Do you have compliance tips/advice for advisors? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so drop me a line in the comments or on Twitter.

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For more information, check me out on Twitter, where I regularly share social media tips, advice, trends and more, including how to build your business with social. Follow me at @jonferchen.

Insurance products and plan administrative services are provided by Principal Life Insurance Company, member of the Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®), Des Moines, IA 50392.

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