The Seven Deadly Social Media Sins

By Amy McIIwain, President, Financial Social Media on Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Between Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn I’m connected with over 7,000 financial professionals and companies engaging in social media. While I’m thrilled to see so many people coming on board I’m also a bit horrified with some of the practices I’ve witnessed. Those who are doing it right are reaping the benefits, however, companies diving in too quickly without first learning to swim risk ruining it for everyone. Below are some of the biggest mistakes I’ve been seeing and how you can avoid them:

1.) No Social Media Compliance Policy. One of the #1 killers to a business or individual’s social media efforts is the absence of a social media compliance policy. As a member of the financial industry you should be all too aware of the strict regulatory environment you face in dealing with social media. As a registered rep you must refer to the rules of your B/D, even if they are a bit stricter than those suggested by FINRA. As an RIA or life/heath agent, you aren’t off the hook. FINRA lays out a great set of guidelines and I suggest you follow them as well. For an overview of these guidelines you can download our Social Media Compliance Guide.

2.) No Social Media Strategy. Simply setting up social media accounts and then letting them go inactive is worse than not having any accounts at all. Creating and following a social media strategy is not only easy, but will almost guarantee the growth and success of your networks.

3.) No Archiving Software. Monitoring the content of you and your connections is crucial to the successful management and exposure of your brand. When certain content is posted from social networking sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, archiving software archives your users’ content and then filters and exports it to your third party collection service. Not only does most archiving software have powerful tools for search, reporting and exportation of your content, but most are also in compliance with FINRA and SEC regulations for record keeping of electronic communications.

4.) Mixing Personal and Professional. So you had a fun time last weekend – dancing, drinking and having a good time at a friend’s wedding – and consequently a few tagged pictures of you appear on Facebook. There’s nothing wrong with sharing those photos with personal friends and family, but the last thing you want is for a client to see those photos and find you unprofessional. Maybe you’re a huge Packers fan, but your clients are not, and posting status updates about their amazing Superbowl win may irk them a little bit. The bottom line? You need to separate your personal and professional relationships on all social networks. Create lists in Facebook and change your privacy settings. Don’t post incriminating content that you wouldn’t want your professional connections to see.

5.) Ranking Quantity over Quality. It’s not about the number of connections you have, but the value of the connections you have. You’ll see myriad individuals out there that will connect with anyone and everyone – but if you can’t find value out of the relationship, what’s the point? Simply adding connections just to look popular will not help your business grow and succeed. Take time and effort to carefully select and contact each and every connection – you’ll be happy you did. 1 relevant contact-turned-consumer that you gross profits off is more valuable than 100 unknown contacts.

6.) Push Marketing. According to ExactTarget, 41 percent of users who have un-followed a brand on Twitter did so because of too much push marketing. Similarly, 43 percent of Facebook users who have “unliked” a brand or fan page do so for the same reasons. Think about your organization’s relationship with its users as you would a business relationship offline. Too much push marketing will simply put off your clients and consumers and create a negative brand perspective. Social media is about building a community. Provide content of interest and value. Finding the right dynamic is what will create valuable, lasting relationships, as well as make your company’s marketing strategy successful.

7.) Failing to Follow-up. Join the conversation! You may have a large amount of followers and are kicking out great content on a daily basis, but until you start jumping into the conversation with your users you won’t see a great return. Make it a priority to engage with your users on a daily basis by sharing, commenting and liking their posts. You’ll find the reciprocation well worth the effort.

We tried to make the seven deadly social media sins all encompassing, but if we’ve missed any please let us know. Are there any social media mistakes you see often, and how do you think businesses should combat these issues? Let us know what you think!

Amy McIlwain is a professional speaker on social media and president of Financial Social Media, an online marketing firm specializing in the financial industry. She can be reached through her website at and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (@InsuranceMKTG). 

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