I've been writing columns about social media for nearly 10 years now, and in all of that time I've stressed the importance of watching what you say, being professional 24/7/365, and keeping personal opinions about current events and politics to a minimum, if that.
Let me be clear from the start: My stance hasn't changed. What has changed is the way people use and consume social media. While that's to be expected over a decade, I don't think anyone could have seen the drastic changes that have skewed the timeline. Many hang on Donald Trump's every word. I'm no behavorial psychology expert, but even I would venture to guess that because of this shift, more people are likely to take my type of advice with a grain of salt and venture into areas that have "worked" because they see it as "working."
Actually, this type of social media hasn't worked. It just appears to because it dominates the news cycle. Call it the shock and awe factor. As we've seen from experience, when we deviate from my type of advice, everything goes downhill.
So how do you make your mark by playing it safe when no one else seems to be doing the same? Just like that. You concentrate on what you know, stay away from what you think (in general), and you'll give people a reason to not only visit your social media feeds, but to stay with them.
Let's break it down into practical steps you can take.
Be the expert. Not an expert in a crowded field — the expert. What area of financial advice is your area? Sure, you counsel about everything but there's probably one part that you truly love talking about. Take that and turn it into your niche. Create a blog. Do a podcast. Start a LinkedIn group. Make it so when someone googles the topic, you are the only person who shows up. Outside of social media and financial advice, I absolutely love all things Apple. But my niche is all things Apple Watch.
Always answer questions. With great knowledge comes great responsibility. While you obviously can't provide advice in your social media feeds, you can show that you are there and listening. Always be on the lookout for people who have basic questions about financial planning, just as you should be on the lookout for people with questions about your niche. Trust me when I tell you: When someone learns your name because you took the time to respond to their question on social media, they're a fan. Even if that response is a way for them to reach you offline, it means so much because you just made what they had to say important.
Show a sense of humor where it makes sense. Josh Brown wins Twitter so often because Josh Brown mixes business with pleasure in the best way. After reading a few of his tweets, you find yourself looking forward to the next one. In the social media world, that's pretty much the definition of making it. But make no mistake, this didn't happen overnight. I'm often amazed at how many people want to reap the benefits and do the job part-time. We're all busy, but you have to be all-in to achieve this level of success. You can maintain a presence and that's fine, but millions maintain a presence.
Be on top of the trends — in financial advice and social media. You need to know the newest rules for your clients, but what do you know about the latest in social media? Are you just hearing about Instagram now or have you been aware since it was cool? I often tell people that I was tweeting when celebrities were still tweeting things like "what is Twitter?" Things changed once it went mainstream, but if you can identify an area on social before your competition, you'll win the social and search wars. Once you win those, it's a lot easier to stay the leader. Read often, follow blogs and network with your peers to always know what they are doing.
In summary, I leave you with lyrics from James Taylor. Even though he wasn't talking about social media, unless of course he's a time traveler and just blew my mind, this fits:
Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain. I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.
And in all of those changes — there will be many more — certain things will stay the same. My social media advice might go out of style, but it'll never go out of favor.
Just ask Roseanne.
If you have a social media question or an idea for a column topic, please let me know. Tweet them to me with the hashtag #socialmediaadviser or email me at email@example.com.