If you are new to social networking, you’re probably wondering where to start and what you should be doing. It’s crowded and confusing out there in terms of social networking tools. So, here are a few of the priority social tools advisors should use and what you should be doing when you get there.

1.  LinkedIn is the largest professional social network and a good place to start your social networking. Many firms permit advisors to maintain LinkedIn accounts, though restrictions may apply to an advisors’ activities on the site. Since many of your clients are business people and will also have LinkedIn accounts, this is a great opportunity to get to know more about your clients and become more engaged participants in their social networks.

Read: LinkedIn profile crucial: social media expert

What you should do here: When you meet someone in person, ask them if they are on LinkedIn. After the meeting, connect with clients and peers on LinkedIn and follow their online activities, liking and commenting on items they share. Join groups and participate in discussions related to your subject matter expertise. Share a great article that you feel adds real value on a topic you’re familiar with.

2.  Google+ (Google Plus) is the social networking service of the world’s most popular search engine. Recent introduction of Google’s “Search in Your World” functionality means that if you’re looking for a new place to eat in town and one of your friends has recommended a hot new restaurant, it will show up higher in your search results. In other words, search results are becoming linked to your social connections. And since our research and decision-making processes as consumers are highly influenced by our social networks, you’ll benefit by being visible on Google+.

Read: You can’t avoid Google+

What you should do here: Connect with peers in financial services, identify and follow subject matter influencers. Use Google+ to discover and share great content, while actively recommending this content by clicking +1 (equivalent to ‘like’).

3.  Facebook is the largest online social network. It will top one billion users later this year. Many people you know are already active here. Use Facebook to build your network of family and friends, colleagues and close clients who you know well and with whom you have personal relationships.

Read: How to be a social media success

What you should do here: Strive to become part of your friends’ social world online by sharing content and engaging in online conversations. Listen closely to what people find interesting and key off of it. There’s nothing like paying attention to people to show them you care.

4.  Twitter is a powerful social network that attracts the digital elite across all walks of life and professions. In addition to the 140 character limit to Tweets, Twitter has a number of idiosyncratic features that make it less obvious to new users just what is going on in this vital social network.

Read: Clever tweets aid brand building

What you should do here: Identify and follow people that influence you, including authors, analysts, columnists, news outlets, publications, etc. Check in regularly to Twitter and share content you find compelling. In time, reach out and make connections with your influencers and eventually start paying attention to who you are influencing.

5. Pinterest has been around for a few years, but recently made a meteoric rise to the top of the social media heap. Where Twitter tends to be text-based, Pinterest is image-based and notable for its large female user-base and more lifestyle-oriented content.

Read: 6 ways to use Pinterest

What you should do here: Set up an account and start liking and “repinning” other users’ content. Set up virtual “pin-boards” based on your natural interests or affinities and start following people with similar interests. Consider how you might use your aesthetic interests in art, crafts, architecture and culture to build connections with others and attract people to you.

Don’t be afraid to get personal and share some of yourself in these social networks. Remember, people do business with people they know, like and trust. So give them a reason to do business with you.

Read: Social media more revealing than you think

Jay Palter is a social media strategist and coach with two decades of experience in financial services, software development and marketing.
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