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Social Media, the Old-Fashioned Way

It’s time to start wondering about the time you’re investing in social media tools.

Carl Richards, 02/13/2013

It might just be me, but I’m getting the sense advisors are developing an unhealthy anxiety around the need to use social media. We hear about it all the time from friends, the media, social media consultants, and other advisors. To build an advisory business, we’re told we have to be on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, and connect on LinkedIn.

I think it’s really important that we take a step back and talk about a couple of things. Because while it’s incredibly difficult to ignore everyone saying we should have Twitter handles, social media isn’t right for all of us.

First, ask yourself why. This thing that we call social media is really just a set of tools, each built for different purposes. If your goal is to have 140-character conversations with people around the world, Twitter is an amazing tool. But it might make sense to ask yourself how valuable Twitter is for building a local advisory business (if that’s your goal). For this purpose, I’m not sure it’s that valuable.

If my goal were to build a local business, I’d use a breakfast meeting as my social media strategy. Once a month, invite a dozen people for a roundtable conversation led by you. Call it social media because you’re going to shake everyone’s hand (social) and talk (media). Don’t “sell” anything. Instead, make it your stated intention to ensure everyone who attends leaves prepared to make smarter financial decisions than when they arrived.

Give yourself permission to let go of the obligation you feel to get a Twitter handle and a Facebook page if there are social activities that you can do with a bigger impact on your business, even if they don’t involve using a smartphone.

Second, consider the cost. One of the most valuable things that people point to about social media is a sense of connection, a sense of being informed. But that comes at a cost. In fact, I’m finding that it’s often a high cost because most of social media is nothing more than useless noise. So think about it. Does Twitter or Facebook distract you? Does it keep you from the more important and more difficult work of building a local business through good old-fashioned things, like returning phone calls, networking, and holding breakfast meetings? If so, then it’s time to start wondering about the time you’re investing in social media tools. I know I am.

In reality, not having a Twitter handle doesn’t make you dumb, or even old-fashioned. And as the best advisors know, being good at what you do involves making consistent contact with clients and having meaningful conversations, and I doubt you can do that with 140 characters. If your goal is to build your advisory business, shaking hands and meeting for breakfast may be your best social media strategy.

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The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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