Social media has a key role in business. If you want to network professionally, today, you should be on LinkedIn — 277 million users and counting. Despite the social platform’s growing popularity, however, confusion about its rules and etiquette abound. LinkedIn is not just another social network like Facebook or Twitter, where anything goes.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool for independent financial advisors to connect with potential clients and partners, but it should be used with careful diligence.
Career expert Nicole Williams says the site’s primary purpose is to cultivate “legitimate professional relationships” — which is a shift from the mentality of other social networks. “This isn’t Twitter or Facebook, where the name of the game is numbers,” she said. “It’s not a popularity contest.”
So instead of clicking on names to build a large network, investment advisors should focus only on those they know and trust for professional support. If independent financial advisors want to establish new relationships over the network, they should approach the contacts with the same professionalism they would offline. In other words, don’t pitch a perfect stranger via a LinkedIn message. Get to know them, establish communication and, with that, will come trust and respect.
“For those of you who think ‘cold calling’ on LinkedIn is the way to go, good luck with your online reputation,” wrote Ted Jenkin, co-CEO of oXYGen Financial, in a guest blog for SEI. “You need to build a relationship. All business is done by building relationships. Nobody in real life would ever be as forward as they are on the internet because people like to hide behind their computer. Once you get connected to somebody, you might want to consider commenting on their posts, liking news feed content that they share or even doing some research on what they do for business or personally.”
Freelance writer Debra Donston-Miller offers these suggestions when using LinkedIn:
Be Careful Who You Ask. As in the non-LinkedIn world, it should be considered a big deal to ask for a recommendation, and it should be a big deal to be asked to give a recommendation. Don’t blanket everyone you are connected to with a request to recommend you. You’ll put people who don’t know your work well in an awkward position, and the recommendations you do get won’t be as meaningful as if you had asked in a more pointed way.
Be Professional. Members expect professional behavior and professional talk. This is not the place to share pictures of your lunch, best wishes for birthdays, updates on exercise programs, or selfies of you on vacation.
Build the Network. On LinkedIn, the whole idea is to build a network. It can be hard to build a critical mass of connections, but resist the urge to quickly send out a bunch of connection invites using the LinkedIn template, especially if you are attempting to connect with people you don’t know very well, if at all. At the very least, change or add to the template text to acknowledge how you know the person, why you would like to connect, or both.
Messaging. Yes, you can message your contacts on LinkedIn. No, you shouldn’t message early and often and indiscriminately.
Remember the Platform. Don’t post updates of anything and everything that comes to mind. Remember, this is not Twitter. You should have a good reason for anything and everything you post on LinkedIn. Sharing a blog post you wrote on a relevant business topic? Yes. Cluttering your contacts’ pages with links to every news story you read online today? No.
Summit Brokerage Services is part of Cetera Financial Group, RCS Capital Corporation’s (NYSE: RCAP) retail investment advice platform.
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