Social Media Tips for Professionals Top strategies on how to use social media for financial planners, real-estate agents and attorneys.

By Starr Hall

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Specific industries have specific challenges when it comes to social media. Below, we will examine some useful tips and techniques for those of you working in the financial planning, real estate and legal professions.

Financial Planners
Financial planning is a tough industry when it comes to online posting and building a reputation, but there is a way to still engage and kick some major financial industry butt online. Here are the top four things you can do as a financial planner to make some magic happen online.

1. Post in your status box using more of your personality. Share more of you and your thoughts. People like to relate personally to the people that they hire as financial consultants. They want to know that their financial planners are real people. Do not complain about sales rates, discuss investment opportunities, or tell what you did for other clients -- that is a no-no. You will build your presence online by being more transparent (yet professional).

2. Hold a free teleconference once per month and invite prospects or even clients. This is a great way to give prospects and target market contacts a sneak peek into what you can do for them. If you are too nervous to hold your first few calls, just have someone interview you for the first 20 minutes, and then turn it into a Q&A discussion so you can help callers for the remaining 20 minutes.

3. Offer a free 15-minute assessment of their situation or business. Also give them two different solutions that they can put into place right away. This is a great offer that you can post online, starting with your website or even a Facebook fan page.

4. Post industry specific stats and what is happening in the financial world specific to your niche. But take out your industry lingo and put it into English. Start a conversation by asking, "What do you think about that?"

Real Estate
Although real estate doesn't necessarily have as many restrictions, there are a massive amount of realtors online and off. However, most real estate agents and brokers aren't sure how to build their reputation online because it's difficult to stop a career habit of pitching properties with photos and MLS (Multiple Listing Service) links. These people have prided themselves in being online since desktops could first access the internet and have been using it primarily as a sales tool for a very long time. The social wave requires a more side-ways approach.

1. Utilize video instead of copy. Tell more of a story about a listing or a deal just closed. Forget the static pictures and copy. Instead, put some life into real estate and do a quick, 60-second clip on why a listing is great for the neighborhood. Be transparent and truthful.

2. Get your office involved. Whether you are an agent within an office or the designated broker, you should get your office involved with some online marketing fun. Partner up with another agent and do some back-and-forth video or blog posts to get a few different perspectives on the community and local industry, or each specialize in one topic. There is plenty of business for everyone, even in real estate. You just need to get out there and grab it, even by collaborating with another agent.

3. Write blog posts for community online outlets. This is a great way to get more exposure in your community and build your credibility. Pete Baldwin set out to do just that. Within six weeks, he had a consistent column in the most popular real estate outlet online in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is still killing it online to this day.

Related: 5 Easy Steps to Measure Social Media Campaigns

In this industry, there is great caution regarding what is posted due to client-attorney privilege, as well as establishing a client-attorney relationship. Because most legal professionals know what they can and can't post as far as messaging, we'll skip over that and head straight to a few tips on how to build a legal brand online.

1. Turn laws into light conversation. Without giving legal advice, of course, this is an excellent way to get people to connect with you on a deeper level. So many people get overwhelmed by the legal talk that they tend to shut down because they are confused. Remember that confusion equals "no" in most situations. So post explanations of legal terms, approaches and laws in plain English. You can be the legal translator. Make sure that you include your legal disclosures in a sidebar.

2. Produce legal videos and updates. This is a great way to provide an overview on a legal topic without giving legal advice. Keep these brief and to the point, under one minute. Make sure at the end of the video to add your website URL and always end by asking the viewer a question. For example: "Have you checked your will lately to make sure that you are covered in this area?" or "Does your house title have the proper ownership noted and legally documented?"

Related: When Outsourcing Social Media Marketing Makes Sense (Video)

No matter what industry you are in, there is always something of concern when it comes to online marketing and being social. Just do what you would do in person: Be professional, have fun, be respectful, and you will be just fine.

This article is an adapted excerpt from The Social Wave: Why Your Business Is Wiping Out with Social Media and How to Fix It (Entrepreneur Press, 2011) by Starr Hall.

Starr Hall is a social media strategist, international author and speaker and Associate Partner- Search & Media with Level, A Rosetta Company

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