Find Your Balance on Social Media

Sometimes using social media makes me feel like I’m back on one of those old grade school teeter-totters. I try hard to find the right balance by not favoring one end of the perspective over the other; my concern isn’t surprising since I always hated being suspended in the air when someone a little weightier sat on the opposite side!

Yet, finding your balance with social media is tricky. You might not get stuck up in the air, but one of your priorities could definitely get airborne if it’s neglected. The solution means recognizing this problem even exists, and then taking steps to address each balancing act.

Personal vs. Professional

We all like to think our personal and professional sides can remain separate. However, by its very nature, social media is social and sharable. Despite your best efforts to limit who sees what, you don’t have total control. Plus, your professional followers may find your personal posts, too.

With that in mind, you can’t be out on the far ends of this teeter-totter. You can have your personal posts—just don’t make them a polar extreme from your professional persona. People will find you on your personal and professional sites.

People like to do business with people they know, like and trust, so some shared personal information makes you more relatable. It’s okay to weave some personal ramblings into your professional posts, but don’t get carried away.

Giving vs. Getting

Successful financial services firms recognize social media requires giving more than getting most of the time. You’ll see your ROI, but this balancing maneuver requires a really long board and patience! You need to give lots and give regularly; make yourself a thought leader and an invaluable resource. The payoffs will come in time when you reap repeat business and obtain client referrals.

Curate vs. Create

Your social media posts can include an equal dose of content that you create and curate. Only you know your clients needs and their concerns, so penning (okay keying) a few original thoughts is important. However, your followers understand that you don’t always have time to write prosaic blogs. Plus, they can still realize the benefits of well-selected material that you pass along with a quick personalized spin. Just try to find a nice mix and don’t just forward or re-share anything and everything; be thoughtful and purposeful.

Quality vs. Quantity

Good, solid content is imperative for your social media channels. However, one or two wonderful posts or blogs a year is not enough. Your social media is an extension of your brand and your marketing; it must be sharp and it must be consistent.

Each year, and then again at the start of every month, I sit down and map out my social media priorities. I consider the blogs, podcasts, videos, and webinars I want to post and then budget my time accordingly. I may not get to absolutely every item, but I make sure to hit my key milestones with quality work.

Tweets vs. Posts vs. Blogs vs. Infographics and so on . . .

Okay, I never saw a teeter-totter that could juggle all the communication methods available now with social media, but I’m sure if one did exist it would be a crazy Dr. Seuss-looking contraption. The reality is balancing all your content formats can make you a little crazy!

However, I try to let the social flow of the site dictate my participation. For instance, I typically tweet five or six times a day, because it’s easy to share a quick thought or link. On Facebook, I post once or twice a day depending upon my activities; when I travel I tend to post more often than when I’m sitting in my office. Similarly, I sign onto LinkedIn a couple times a day; I read my news feeds, participant in groups when I really have something to add, and share content when I find good information. I typically only post longer content on LinkedIn once a week.

The social media teeter-totter is not perfect, and it can be a little wobbly at times. Just recognize the need to balance your efforts and make the most of your marketing and branding efforts, while taking the opportunity to connect with clients, prospects, thought leaders, family and friends.

Be Evergreen with Your Content to Save Time

Quality content is vital for developing and communicating your brand on social media today. With educational and insightful posts you can help your clients and prospects by distinguishing your services, expertise, and knowledge. Yet, as a busy financial services professional you have a limited number of hours to work on your social media content.

To maximize your time you must create evergreen content, and then repurpose it. Now, this doesn’t mean copying everything you write on Facebook to LinkedIn. Instead, using evergreen content means following some basic planning and execution strategies to create longevity and multiple uses for your subject matter. Consider the following steps:

1. Create a topic list. In the financial services industry there are some key subjects you know your clients and prospects value. For example, if you’re a retirement plan advisor your employer followers probably care about how to pick a TPA, understanding ERISA, addressing the retirement needs for varying generations, and so on.

Make a list of your topic ideas and then consider subtopics. Take advantage of your vast knowledge base to make each of these subtopics a separate and distinct content item. You don’t have to spend hours researching each topic, just use what you know to cover each subject. Granted, you’ll want to stay abreast of industry changes, but those changes create additional opportunities for you to update or further illuminate a topic.

2. Consider your audience. As with your subject matter, list out your different audiences and target markets. While a specific topic may be vital to each group, your approach, tone and examples may vary among your followers.

You may not have to recreate an entire blog or post for each audience; instead only tweak the content a bit. Think of a politician on the campaign trail: they don’t create new speeches for every stop, they just tweak the opening and closing and keep the body the same!

3. Explore different content mediums. With today’s internet connectivity and various social media platforms, there are many ways to repurpose your content. With just one topic idea, you can share information using any or all of the following formats:

-Blogs

-Posts

-Tweets

-Newsletters

-Videos

-Whiteboard videos

-Audio podcasts

-Infographics

-Webinars

-E-books

4. Promote across channels. Remember to link your content between your various social media sites when possible and applicable.

5. Re-share popular topics. Sometimes your content may be so good, it’s worth sharing more than once. For instance, a blog you wrote a year ago might be worth linking to again on your social media sites. Provide one or two lines outlining why it is still relevant. Also remember you have new followers who haven’t seen your older posts. And existing followers might not have seen the original post—and if they did, they may value a second read-through.

Evergreen content is recycling at its best, plus it’s a time-saver. Make your content interesting and valuable, be creative with your positioning, and you can easily become a financial services industry thought leader without spending hours pounding out social media content every day!

Word for the Day: Curate! Curate Content for Your Business on Social Media

By their very nature, social media sites are meant to be interactive communal gathering spots where members share information on a regular basis. As financial advisors, that interaction is particularly important for connecting with your clients and future prospects. But just what do you post on your sites and how do you come up with all that content? The solution: curate!

That’s right, you don’t have to create new content for every post! Instead, take advantage of the various online clipping services that provide subject-specific articles, blogs and news items. Curate the collection and pick worthwhile posts to share or retweet along with your thoughts or commentary. You need only add a line or two; just something to indicate why the post is worth sharing.

Consider curating industry-specific news along with health and wealth articles, and other areas of interest. Interactive social media updates typically do not require compliance approval, but be sure to check with your own company’s social media policy.

While Google Alert can search for key words, you receive separate emails for each topic so use this tool judiciously. A variety of other solutions are available through a number of curating services, which provide a more streamlined approach. My favorites include the following:

Feedly − The news aggregator acts as portal for all your subject matter and sorts each item by topic. The magazine-style format has different layout options and works with various reader applications, operating systems, and devices. The service offers a free service as well as a more flexible paid option.

Paper.li − Centralizes up to 25 news sources into one online newspaper that you can share with your subscribers via email notifications or on your social media sites. A paid version turns your newspaper into a branded marketing tool with custom domain names, art and logos, ads, and articles.

Scoop.it − From the topics and keywords you enter, Scoop.It creates a content suggestion engine. A free version allows you to create two topics and connect to two social media sites, while several paid options provide increased search capabilities, additional users, and more integrated services. Scoop.it also has an avenue for creating an online, curated newsletter. (Note: Check with your Compliance Department to determine if you can create this type of online magazine or newsletter.)

Newsle − Searches public news items for the names you designate or supply from LinkedIn and/or Facebook. The site uses an algorithm to determine when news items apply to your designated people. (As a side note: Newsle is a great way to follow the latest news on your clients or prospects).

Make Social Media Purposeful

Social media can be a double-edged sword. Spend too much time interacting with your network and you don’t get any other work done! Conversely, dabble occasionally and completely defeat the purpose of the tool.

Is there a happy medium? Yes, but with caveats. Clearly only you can best determine how much time to spend on social media, but beyond the clock aspect you must make sure your endeavors are purposeful and well considered.

In marketing we like to throw around ROI numbers to justify our efforts, and while facts are indeed available and helpful, you can also follow some simple steps to make social media work for you and your business.

  • First, take a moment to define the purpose of your social media use and how it plays into your networking, sales, and marketing strategies. Even if you have been using social media platforms for years, step back and review your goals.
  • Consider which platforms best suit your needs. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest are popular, but which ones best help you connect with your clients and prospects?
  • Make your content platform appropriate. See Social Media Posts are not One-Size-Fits-All for a breakdown on the key differences and what type of content works best on each platform.
  • Vary your frequency by platform. Just as the content and tone differs, so too does the frequency with which you need to post on the various social media sites. For instance, one or two posts per week is fine on LinkedIn, while you may tweet on Twitter four to six times a day and add content to Facebook once a day.
  • Create a weekly content schedule to take some of the guess-work out of what to post and make the process more manageable. Perhaps on Facebook you post or share content about the economy on Monday, financial planning on Tuesday, and so forth throughout the week. Keep in mind, that an important news event might interrupt this schedule, but most weeks you should be able to stay on track.
  • Use online management tools and schedulers to help Avoid the Social Media Vortex!
  • Use analytics to discover the best times and days to post for your network. Scheduling app Buffer also provides tools for tracking your engagement on the leading social media sites. Other apps are also available for site-specific or general analytics.

Don’t overdo or avoid social media! Just find an appropriate balance and use the sites with purpose and planning.

10 Tips for Promoting Events on Social Media

Some of my best information-gathering and networking opportunities have come prior to events and conferences. The reason? Well-conceived and interactive social media strategies leading up to the actual event.

Think about the last time you signed up for an in-person or online event; I bet there were social media tie-ins that were engaging, informative, fun, and worthwhile!

Just as with other aspects of marketing, your events should have a clear strategy and social media should be part of the plan. As busy financial advisors, you may not have the time or resources for a full-out social media marketing blitz, but consider starting with these first few basics and then add as many extras as you can to obtain maximum event participation!

1. Create an event landing page (probably on your website) that includes all the pertinent information including: Reasons to attend, dates and times, location (if an in-person event), agendas, presenters, testimonials from past participants, pricing, and how to register. Consider apps like Eventbrite to help setup and manage your events (you can also use this tool to sell tickets), and then include this link on your webpage and social media platforms.

2. Keep your target audience and what they will achieve by attending your event as the focus for all your social media postings.

3. Use your social media channels to promote the event and provide links to the landing page. For instance, your blogs, posts and tweets can offer teasers or summaries on the points you will cover (and promise more to come at the event). Consider even posting a question: “Wonder how to juggle your financial planning goals in today’s hectic environment? If so, attend our event . . . “

4. Create a Twitter hashtag specifically for the event. Get people talking about the event and sharing ideas (remember, this helps people learn and make great contacts).

5. Include photos or infographics with your social media posts. Use any special event graphics, but also consider free images to bolster visual interest (Buffer has a great list of resources). Is your event in San Diego in the middle of winter? Then be sure to post a sunny shot of the downtown skyline or the sandy beaches at nearby La Jolla.

6. Post a video! Even a short 30-second video is effective if it helps tell prospects why they should attend your event.

7. Ask colleagues and your professional organizations/associations to share the event link on their social media pages.

8. Include bios and links to your event presenters in your posts (they will probably share your event link with their network).

9. Use social media sites to solicit feedback on agenda items. People want to know their ideas are important and what better way to show them then to let them help set a portion of the agenda.

10. Hold a contest prior to the event on one of your social media platforms.

Should social media replace your website?

Can your firm exist on the Internet through a social media presence only? Do you even need a website?

With the increasing reach of social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter, these are legitimate questions to ask. What’s more, it takes time, money and expertise to set up and manage a professionally designed website, while nearly anyone can set up a Facebook page in minutes – for free.

Some small, cash-strapped businesses may be able to get away with a Facebook page or blog only. But for most financial advisers and investment managers today, the best approach integrates both a website and social media marketing into an overall marketing strategy.

Each element offers its own benefits. Social media are interactive tools that build trust, reputation, brand impressions and community. When done right, social media cultivate new leads, referral agents and friends. On the other hand, websites embody your brand. They provide easily accessed information on your products, services, people and locations. And they house a repository of material for more in-depth customer research.

Rather than being mutually exclusive, websites and social media should work together. Think of it as a hub-and-spoke approach. The website serves as the hub, or central point, to which all of your social media spokes connect. Social media can build relationships and generate leads, but you must have content that your customers can link to.

In other words, social media should drive visitors to your website, not replace it.

When it comes to evaluating the relative advantages of websites and social media marketing in your overall marketing mix, consider the following six factors: technology, control, credibility, value, analytics and search.

Technology. Today’s top dog may become tomorrow’s goat. Remember MySpace? The golden rule of investing applies: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Social media sites own your page and can cancel your site if they wish. If that happened, you would lose all your content and customer contacts.

Control. Since the social media platform owns your page, you don’t control the layout or the user experience with your content. Moreover, the platform owns the primary relationship with the visitor. With a website, on the other hand, you own the content, layout and features. You can change it, update it, edit it or remove it at any time. You control how visitors see your content, which products and services receive emphasis, and where prospects can sign up or contact you.

Credibility. Financial advisors work years to build trust and credibility. Yet the low barrier of entry for creating a Facebook page means anyone can have a social media presence. Building and maintaining a professional website adds depth that a social media presence can’t match.

Value. If you plan to sell your practice in the future, you must build the value of both its tangible and non-tangible assets. With an established website, blog, leads and inbound links, your business will offer greater value.

Analytics. If you can measure it, you can improve it. While social media platforms provide limited data about who visits your profile, the beauty of websites is their measurability. Thanks to powerful web analytic tools, you can tell the number of visits to your website, which pages are most popular, how much time visitors spend on a page, and how often or not visitors do what you want them to. Armed with that data, you can fine-tune your website for maximum effectiveness. And websites do a better job at creating and capturing leads.

Search. An entire industry has emerged to help companies turn up at the top of Internet searches. In the past, firms packed their sites with keywords and links in order to achieve high rankings. While search engine optimization (SEO) still factors into search results, the number-one search engine, Google, now also accounts for the popularity of content on social media. If you want to score high on Google searches these days, best practices thus require not only SEO but also SMO—social media optimization.

When weighing the relative merits of websites versus social media platforms, it’s not an either-or proposition. Each has its advantages. And together, they’re even more powerful and mutually reinforcing than any one alone.

The truth is, today you must maintain both a professional website and a strong social media presence. You use social media to promote relationship building and then direct customers to your website. When you do, you will find and convert more leads as well as build stronger relationships with your current clients.

Quick Steps for Finding the Best Twitter Feeds

Twitter is a great social media site for quick information and news leads with over 255 million monthly active users. However, figuring out who to follow can seem like a daunting task, especially given the 500 million tweets posted every day. Luckily, you are just steps away from creating a robust and meaningful list!

First, look at the websites and blogs you regularly read to find a Twitter feed. Most companies and individuals indicate their Twitter link with an icon on their web page, blog, and other social media sites.

A quick Google search also turns up the following top financial services blogs (as noted on RIABiz.com, Financialsocialmedia.com, and other sites) and the associated Twitter links:

Nerd’s Eye View by Michael Kitces, partner and director of research at Pinnacle Advisory Group, https://twitter.com/MichaelKitces.

The Research Puzzle by Tom Brakke, CFA, consultant, writer, investment advisor, and principal of TJB Research, https://twitter.com/researchpuzzler.

The Meridian Blog by Scott Dauenhauer, principal of Meridian Wealth Management, https://twitter.com/meridianwealth.

Rock the Boat Marketing by Pat Allen, founder of Rock the Boat Marketing in Chicago, https://twitter.com/RockTheBoatMKTG.

Wade Pfau’s Retirement Researcher Blog by Wade Pfau, founder of Retirement Researcher.com, https://twitter.com/WadePfau.

Investment Writing by Susan Weiner, writer-editor, CFA, https://twitter.com/susanweiner.

FPPad by Bill Winterberg, certified financial planner and writer, https://twitter.com/BillWinterberg.

Wired Advisor by Stephanie Sammons, founder of Wired Advisor, https://twitter.com/StephSammons.

The Reformed Broker by Josh Brown, https://twitter.com/ReformedBroker.

Abnormal Returns by Tadas Viskanta, https://twitter.com/abnormalreturns.

The Glass Hammer by Nicki Gilmour, CEO and editor-in-chief of The Glass Hammer, https://twitter.com/theglasshammer.

You can also conduct a hashtag search on Twitter by entering key industry words, such as: #finserv, #wealth, #money, #invest, #investment, #investing, or a combination of several hashtags. The search results allow you to follow the entire category, or pick and choose from the subcategories.

For instance, under #finserv you can opt to view just People or News, and you can limit the list to Everywhere or Near You. Twitter also lets you conduct an Advanced Search based on words, phrases, hashtags, languages, people and dates. You can then decide if you want to follow an entire group or just some of the key thought leaders. (If this seems overwhelming, you can always use Google Alerts or Twilert to monitor keywords of interest.)

Another good resource for identifying Twitter leads is AdvisorTweets’ Meet the Advisor Tweets Universe! This resource lists advisors alphabetically by name, but you can also use the search feature to find advisors in a particular area or category.

Twitter does restrict individuals to 1,000 follows a day, and account-based users to 2,000 follows per month. The site also monitors for aggressive follow behavior and spam.

 

Content Marketing: Educating Clients Generates Leads and Converts Browsers into Buyers

content-marketing-AT-blog

Call it content marketing, inbound marketing or progressive marketing. Either way, it means educating customers without direct selling. Sharing content is the new way to market.

Especially for the financial services industry, content marketing makes sense. Your customers want unbiased information, and plenty of it, before they choose a financial advisor. The more you can provide that kind of information, the greater chance you will have of generating sales leads and of converting browsers into buyers. And the more time prospects spend educating themselves on the basics, the more quality time you can spend with them on their specific needs.

Here are some powerful reasons why you should adopt a content marketing strategy. According to global marketing research and advisory firm Demand Metric, content marketing:

  • Generates three times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing
  • Costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing
  • Improves brand loyalty
  • Converts more leads into buyers

 

Understanding Content Marketing

So, what exactly is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content (across digital channels) to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Let’s unpack that definition because it says a lot.

The best place to start is with a clearly defined audience. As with any marketing, in content marketing you must first claim your niche. Identify not only the demographics of age, gender, income and occupation, but also the psychographics of values and beliefs. The more you know your customer, the better you will be at creating compelling content.

Notice they say content should be valuable, relevant and consistent. We would also add that it should be timely. Valuable means consumers literally should be willing to pay for it. Relevant means it must address their wants and needs. Consistency keeps consumers coming back because they know they can count on interesting content. And timely means your content addresses issues on the minds of consumers now, such as changes in the healthcare law or markets.

So let’s discuss content more specifically. By content we mean videos, blog posts, articles, social media, widgets like calculators, case studies, podcasts, and more. If it can be put online, it’s content, from a 140-character tweet to a 20-page white paper.

 

Developing Content for Financial Services

The best way to develop content is to do a little research. Pinpoint the search terms, keywords and topics consumers type in when they seek a financial advisor. Then make sure your website and content align with those terms. With a strategy known as content targeting, you can then use their search terms to deliver exactly the content they’re looking for. For example, if they find your site using tax planning search terms, you can deliver content to them on tax planning, not estate planning. Think of the questions you often hear from clients. What are their fears, hopes and goals? Let those inspire you for topics. Provide facts and information, but don’t be afraid to inject your own personal story or insights. After all, people make decisions based on logic and emotion.

OK, you might say, I know content is king. But what if I don’t have the time or inclination to develop it? First, you can hire a professional writer to create the content or a professional editor to refine your ideas. Some companies such as Smarsh specialize in creating websites for financial professionals and offer licensed, compliant content as a part of their package. Second, you’re probably already creating content in your work. It’s just a matter of turning it into something useful for the digital world.

For example, say you’re already doing seminars for your clients. Hire a videographer to record and edit your presentation. Then upload it to YouTube and include a link from your website. Or simply make an audio recording of it and turn that into a podcast. Have a video editor turn your PowerPoint presentation into a web seminar, or webinar. Or let someone else do the talking—you can interview intriguing leaders in your field (a great way to network!) and publish the podcasts.

Another common objection to sharing information goes to the heart of content marketing itself. I’ve spent years building my expertise, the comment goes. Why should I just give it away for free? It may feel like you’re giving away your most valuable secrets, but in fact this rich content reinforces your expertise.

When consumers recognize you as an expert, you begin building your credibility. When you build credibility, you expand the consumer’s trust in you. With credibility and trust established, you pave the way for a relationship. In fact, as Demand Metric has observed, 78 percent of consumers already perceive a relationship between themselves and a company using custom content.

And once you create a relationship, you’ve created a customer.

Don’t Lose Your Voice on Social Media

You can’t be an expert in everything, and you certainly can’t do every task imaginable to run your financial planning business. Instead, you align your strengths with key tasks and seek help where needed. You call on an accountant or attorney for tax and compliance issues, an admin for calendar management and clerical duties, and centers of influence for thought leadership and insight.

But who handles your social media? Do you write and post your own updates, or do you have an intern posting them?

Luckily, there isn’t one and only one way to address your social media needs. However, there is a careful balance to be considered if you delegate the work or seek outside help. Social media is an extension of you and your company; you cannot ignore your role in creating the purpose, content and voice of social media communications in your business.

Here’s why: we’ve all read social media posts that just don’t ring true. The content may be well written and interesting, but the posts just don’t sound like the person you know—and that little doubt makes you wonder what else may not be true. You want to avoid that scenario in your own social media communications.

To set yourself up for success, first determine how social media plays into your entire marketing plan. You cannot think of social media as singular and separate entity. It needs to align with your business value proposition and vision, and share the same voice.

Next you need to consider your audience and how the different social media sites work. Each one has a distinct style and followers tend to expect a certain attitude and form of sharing. You can certainly belong to several sites and target your postings accordingly. Your voice shouldn’t change drastically, but you can be more casual and personal on some sites, while others require more professional positioning.

If you opt to delegate the work of creating social media content (or even just a part of it), you must be prepared to share your social media plan and purpose with the people who will be helping you. Spend time outlining your strategy and discussing content and schedules. Consider creating an editorial calendar to outline and track your various postings.

Just as you wouldn’t send an intern to run a meeting with one of your best clients, don’t ask someone who isn’t yet qualified to manage your social media posts. You’re more likely to take an intern or new employee with you to a meeting or event to offer guidance and a learning opportunity. So adopt that same approach with your social media needs. Don’t put someone in a position they aren’t qualified to do; instead, help and train them first.

Make sure your guidance also includes a social media policy so your employees understand what is and isn’t okay when posting to social media on your behalf. Pay special attention to compliance issues and rules regarding monitoring and archiving, too.

Also, if you have an outside company helping you with content, just be sure to personalize the posts with a sentence or two introducing the subject, and note why you think it’s important.

Last, provide oversight and review of content once you do hand off some of the work. Remember, you are probably most in-tune with what your clients and prospects think and want to know via social media. Pay attention to those nuances, trends, and other industry cues—and make sure they are built into you social media conversations, no matter who creates and posts updates.

 

Use Social Media for Networking, Not Selling

How is your social media strategy working for you? Driving lots of sales? No, I’m not surprised. Social media is not about selling; it is about creating relationships. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise!

Social media may seem like the perfect way to pitch your financial planning services, but it is not the place to sell. Instead, social media is the place to develop and make new connections, find centers of influence, and exchange ideas and information.

Social media does not replace traditional face-to-face networking and referrals, it just provides you with another way to reach people. Sure, setting up profiles and remaining active on your chosen sites takes time, but the work is well worth the expanded engagement opportunities.

Just make sure your social media use is strategic and a part of your overall marketing plan. Your content and voice should align with your other marketing efforts and you must participate consistently and with purpose. Likewise, remember your manners and be polite!

Want some specific strategies? Try these methods for improving your connections:

Conduct background research — Before you meet with a prospect spend five minutes reviewing their profile on LinkedIn to learn a bit more about their background and interests. You don’t have to reveal this knowledge, just keep it in mind when addressing their needs and how best to offer solutions.

Follow company activity — Companies are increasingly using social media to communicate with their employees. By following your clients and prospects on Facebook and Twitter you can learn about the company culture, benefit changes, and other nuances. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, “Social networkers can help business leaders, HR and ethics professionals improve workplace culture.”

Access your clients’ rolodex — Check out your current LinkedIn connections for new prospects by seeing and sorting their contact lists. Simply go to a client’s profile page and click on Connections in the lower right-hand corner of the main box. From here you can use key search words, like HR manager or CEO, find good prospects and then ask your contact for a personal introduction. Granted, some people are not as intentional as others with their connection lists, but never under estimate the power of a second-degree connection.

Find Centers of Influence — Search for industry experts, local business groups, and relevant thought leaders on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and follow their sites and posts. Consider joining a few LinkedIn groups, as well, to expand your knowledge base and share your expertise.

Well done, social media can provide meaningful connections and help build relationships. Granted, you will expose your connections to competitors, but remember your clients and prospects will judge you by the company you keep.