Expert outlook: Analysis from the 2012 IMCA and CFA conferences

Professionals who use social media networks to demonstrate their expertise have the opportunity to become go-to people in their industries—that every major financial conference these days runs a full session on the topic is testament to this trend.

Neglecting to actively cultivate social media presence, at best, makes professionals appear out of touch and, at worst, untrustworthy, Miriam Salpeter, owner and social media coach, Keppie Careers told the 65th CFA Institute Annual Conference in Chicago.

“An individual who does not create an online presence runs the risk of allowing his or her digital reputation to be dictated by someone else,” she said. “It is not difficult for someone with a vendetta to post unflattering information online about another person.”

Salpeter recognizes that while many financial advisors have moved into that space there are those who have yet to overcome common barriers, compliance and regulatory issues, for example, to its adoption.

“For those who work at firms who have not set up monitoring software and guidelines, it can be challenging to be sure they are not stepping outside of guidelines,” she said.

The overwhelming array of social media channels also can create confusion about their relevance to clients with different levels of sophistication, and in diverse age groups.

Salpeter breaks it down. “LinkedIn is known for attracting a professional, relatively affluent membership, but all the big networks (Twitter, Facebook and Google+) have users from all financial levels, including CEOs and other professionals from many industries,” she said. “Facebook has the largest social graph, so it makes sense to look at that network, no matter what the target audience.”

Using and cultivating a community on Google+ also has an added benefit of improving your visibility on the world’s most widely used search engine. “It’s a lost opportunity to be [visible] if people do not take advantage of this tool.”

That said, there isn’t necessarily one network for each age group. Each has members from a variety of demographics.

“When you look at statistics, even traditionally ‘young’ networks are attracting more mature audiences,” she said. “Facebook is seeing older adults join in larger numbers. LinkedIn, on the other hand, has been very successful in attracting new professionals.”

Salpeter admits that while it’s a great way to brand and differentiate, some risks come with the rewards.

“It’s important to keep in mind that consumers expect a reply if they contact a company on an open social media channel where that company has a presence,” she said. “It may pose a risk if a company has a Twitter presence, for instance, but does not pay attention to mentions. If a customer engages there, it’s important to reply.”

Rewards, she said, come primarily from being able to access clients and prospects directly, free, and addressing their concerns immediately. These loyal customers can be converted into their best brand ambassadors.

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