When I was first encouraged to start building a social media presence, I thought the idea was both terrifying and hilarious.

It seemed frightening because of the many complex (and seemingly insurmountable) compliance challenges. And yet the idea was risible, as well; I equated social media with TMZ or reality TV — that is, a potential source of embarrassment that was to be avoided at all costs.

Yet I didn’t initially consider the unique opportunity that social media marketing actually presents: giving us the ability to communicate with our clients and colleagues while making endless connections with those I would never otherwise have a chance to reach and come to know.

We started with a blog, because I really wanted a way to feature our clients: their lives, stories and ideas. My embrace of Facebook and Twitter came later, as I began to see how these social media tools could connect our stories with people outside the firm.

Once we’d committed to the effort, we spent both time and energy working closely with our broker-dealer to really understand the correct compliance protocol. Rules are always changing, so we needed to educate ourselves about compliance and make sure we were staying current.

We also wanted to be sure that we approached social media in a fashion that not only allowed firm executives to speak with authentic voices, but also helped us avoid wasting ridiculous amounts of time.

WHEN TO DELEGATE

We had to decide what we could delegate, and where we should use interns, staff or outside help. In our case, we wound up doing a lot of our own writing, but outsourcing both editing and social media posting to our PR firm.

Now, about three years later, we happily use social media as an important part of our marketing and PR strategy. We created a strategic marketing and communications plan that fits who we are and what our practice is all about.

We use original content wherever possible, and we follow and engage with community members, fellow professionals and other people who reenforce our message, and follow and support us.

We even have allowed ourselves to have a little fun. (Check out our holiday pictures on Facebook, if you don’t believe me.) And we have become braver about putting ourselves and our business out there publicly, in ways and in venues we had never before imagined.

Lynn Ballou, CFP, is a co-owner of Ballou Plum Wealth Advisors, an RIA in Lafayette, Calif., and a registered principal with LPL Financial. Follow the firm on Twitter at @ballouplum

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