There are general social media mistakes. They may or may not be embarrassing, and you definitely don’t want to make them because doing so means you’ve left exposure and conversion potential on the table. But they’re not reputation-destroying by any stretch.
And then there are, well, reputation-destroying social media mistakes. The kinds of gaffes you absolutely 100% never want to make. The ones that, when made by paid social media managers, add another decimal place to the unemployment rate.
Even if you’re not a professional social media manager, and you either run your own social accounts or wear that hat within a smaller organization, you need to know what flies and what doesn’t in this fast-evolving ecosystem. That’s all the more true if you’re a financial professional bound by ethics, regulation, and your own sense of responsibility to respect your clients and colleagues.
Here’s how to toe the line as a financial professional on social media.
Social Media “Do’s” for Financial Professionals
These are positive things you can do as a financial professional on social media, or examples of value-added features your social media presence should have.
1. Focus on your area of expertise
Always come back to your expertise. Your professional social media presence is not the place to opine on the issue of the day, except as it’s relevant to what you and your organization do professionally.
Remaining within your wheelhouse is an effective way to cultivate professional credibility as well. As an example, look to the Twitter account of Asiaciti Trust, an international fiduciary services provider with a presence in the Asia-Pacific region. It’s largely devoted to what you would expect: financial news and analysis of markets and trends from Australia and New Zealand to Japan.
2. Bring Other Authorities Into the Conversation
Don’t “over-tag” other users, but do bring other credible experts into the conversation whenever it makes sense to do so. Otherwise, you’re just talking to yourself, which isn’t the best way to engage an audience. Cultivating high-level social media conversations with other influencers helps establish your own credibility, too, which is good if you’re not yet particularly well-known.
3. Use Interactive Channels Whenever Possible
Social media is interactive by default, but it’s not always easy or even fun to converse with other users. Get around this by using channels designed to be interactive, like Twitter Spaces. (You can also host an open Twitter “AMA” event, but that can run into the same problem as general conversations in open social space.)
4. Get comfortable in front of the camera
Grab your audience’s attention with front-of-camera events regularly, at least twice every month. It’s better when these events are interactive, on channels like Instagram Live. But the most important thing is to put yourself out there and give your followers something to look forward to.
Don’t be discouraged by small audiences at first. It takes time to break through. As you grow more confident in front of the camera and learn what works and what doesn’t, you’ll build a loyal viewer community.
5. Be respectful (always)
This is often framed as a “don’t,” but it’s important to see the flip side as well. No matter how tempted you might be to do otherwise, you need to keep calm and remain professional on social media. As we’ll see, lashing out is a quick way to lose followers and damage your reputation.
Social media “Don’ts” for financial professionals
Here’s what to avoid as a financial professional on social media. Even if it’s really tempting to do otherwise.
1. Speak ill of colleagues and peers
“Subtweet” if you must, but don’t call out people you work with — or may have the opportunity to work with in the future — in public.
In fact, you really shouldn’t say a bad word about anyone when you’re using your professional social media channels. If you have trouble holding your tongue, create anonymous accounts on platforms that allow it (like Twitter and Reddit) and use them to let loose.
2. Get into arguments in public
Sensing a pattern? The easiest way to go astray on social media is to forget #5 above: be respectful at all times.
Public arguments that go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth — those are particularly uncomfortable for other users, and even more likely to result in a loss of credibility for your brand. It’s possible to disagree while being respectful. If that seems difficult for the person or organization you disagree with, be the bigger person and drop it. No need to show “strength” with a shouting match.
3. Let your posting schedule slip
Set a posting schedule and stick to it. Missing even one scheduled post creates a permission structure to do so again in the future. Before you know it, you’ll be posting “when you feel like it,” which is code for “never.”
You’re less likely to slip if you set a realistic pace and use a workflow management tool or calendar app to hold yourself accountable. If time is an issue, don’t worry about making perfect, overly long posts. Repetition is more important than perfection.
4. Go too far outside your area of expertise
No one likes an armchair expert. You’ll have more social media success in the long run if you stick to what you know and cultivate a clearly defined area of expertise. Your audience will eventually seek out that expertise, driving engagement and turning your social media presence into a legitimate lead-generation engine.
Do well by your brand
You’re only as good as your brand. And these days, “your brand” increasingly means “what you do and say online.” That’s true even if you’re part of a small or midsize financial services firm whose marketing and advertising activities run through channels other than social media.
In short, you and whoever else has permission to use your social media accounts must be on good behavior. A reputation can take years to build, only for one serious gaffe to demolish it overnight. Don’t let that happen to you.