Congrats to Andy Gluck for launching the “Financial Crisis Webinar Series,” featuring recognized pros presenting valuable insights and information in a real-time platform. I’ve found them all helpful, but the session on April 3, Compliance Issues Posed by LinkedIn, Blogging, and Social Networking Sites, was particularly germane to contemporary communications, as was Andy's last webinar on Twitter.
Financial advisors, of course, are bound by hard rules and regulations when it comes to talking about what they do, how they do it, and the results they get –and most of those rules were created before the Internet. As Brian Hamburger and Daniel Bernstein reminded us, compliance issues apply to new media, too. Anything we say, claim, or endorse online may live forever – and may be against regulations to boot. Using so-called “social networking sites” like LinkedIn and MySpace with the intention of building your professional financial services business can be very tricky territory, so watch your step.
But here’s a thought. When we consider the ash heap around us – the general chaos and loss of trust and faith in our financial industry – we see opportunity if we look for it. With so many “recognized leaders” gone, there is enormous potential for emerging leaders – with integrity, patience, intelligence, and grit – to step forward and introduce themselves, their character, and their viewpoints.
One new social media site, Twitter, is helping them do that in a rather unconventional way. The idea behind Twitter is to answer the question, “what are you doing?” in a very short message limited to 140-characters. That message, known as a “tweet,” is broadcast to your network of “followers.”
When I first heard about Twitter and its premise, my reaction was like that of my 4-year old grandson when he really doesn’t understand something – an incredulous, “Huh?”
I was both skeptical and intrigued. I thought the idea was stupid. Who cares what I’m doing in any given moment? And why would I care about what others are doing in any given moment? Plus who has the time to invest in learning about and effectively using yet another new communications technology?
But I was curious, too. So I signed up, thinking what the heck. I had to at least learn about Twitter with all the buzz about the vibrant “message microcosm” it enables.
Now, two months later, I get it.
In Twitter, it’s all about following and being followed. You create and participate in self-selected networks of people, all twittering away, keeping each other posted on their lives. I have 240 followers and I follow 240 people – which means I have a personal glimpse at a wide range of people’s day-to-day lives – and they have a peek at mine, too. Many celebrities and politicians are active tweeters. If that sounds strange to you, it did to me, too, especially the part about having “followers.” Who are these people? I know some of them, but since Twitter is a viral phenomenon, there are people following me that I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, which I find fascinating. And following someone is fascinating, too.
For example, I follow NPR newsman Scott Simon because I admire his work. I found his tweet about how his daughters turn the cardboards from his shirts into art projects quite endearing. There’s something about “micro messages” like that that help me come to know much more about someone’s day-to-day character.
Which brings me back to the point. I’ve invested significant time and effort learning about Twitter. I post tweets twice a day, to express my worldview – not as a marketing tool for my business. And within the past month, I’ve gotten three new contracts and a slew of promising prospects – almost as a side effect. People got to know me first – and then wanted to know more about doing business.
Short-form technologies like Twitter may be the tools that will help restore eroded trust and build new connections because they force us into tightly focused communications (what are you doing?) that reveal so much more than you’d ever imagine 140-characters would allow.
Is Twitter just a faddish tech trend? What could Twitter do for you? What on earth would you tweet about?