4 Things You Should Know About Social Media

By Nevin Adams • May 03, 2016 • 0 Comments
While social media has been a part of our personal lives for some time now, the retirement industry, writ large, still seems to be a bit of a novice.

Whether you are fully engaged in social media, just thinking about how to get started, or somewhere in between, here are four things to keep in mind.

Far more people read social media than contribute to it.

That’s right, much to the frustration of those of us who keep hearing about the expanding “community” on social media, in the retirement plan space at least, the number of contributors is (still) dwarfed by the number of “followers.” The reasons are varied, running the gamut from compliance prohibitions to personal privacy concerns to — well, a lack of things to say, or time to say it in.

That doesn’t mean that people aren’t reading what you post – but don’t be surprised if you aren’t deluged with comments. Heck, these days even a “like” is considered a recommendation by some, and is prohibited by many employers. Moreover, Facebook, long considered something of a dalliance at best by many employers — and a potential litigation minefield by others — is still blocked by many large organizations.

However, with the widespread expansion of smartphones and similar technologies into the workplace, it seems likely that social media access — and potentially social media interaction — in the workplace will also expand.

The most active users of Twitter aren’t people like you and me.

It’s hard to believe, but Twitter is now 10 years old. It’s come a long way from those early narcissistic “tweets” about every single moment in your day (well, for most users), and it can in fact be a great source to find out late breaking news – so long as you accept that it will be in short snippets, and sometimes little more than rumors.

As it turns out, most of Twitter seems to be dominated by celebrities (or those they hire to tweet on their behalf), journalists (many of whom are simply passing along their own work) and those who purport to teach the rest of us how to use Twitter. Most of the latter will tell you to follow everyone who follows you (that is how you build up followers) — but I prefer to follow only people who I think will have something meaningful/useful to say. Quality, not quantity, in other words.

If you’ve ever wondered how you are supposed to fit complex topics like ERISA and fiduciary into 140 characters (or less) — you’re not the only one! There is, however, a growing number of folks in our industry who “tweet” and a rapidly expanding universe of individuals who go to Twitter for news, even retirement plan news. You may well find that the ability to filter by hashtags, or the ability to create topic lists may even be easier than keeping up with all those emails you currently subscribe to (but don’t always read).

Oh, and for those of you who struggle with 140 characters, but embrace the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words — tweets accompanied by images are said to draw much more interest/eyeballs. Yes, because 140 characters is apparently too many words for some…

Great thoughts and opinions may inspire, but lists — like this one — get shared.

I’ve written a lot over the years — the posts/columns that I get the most comments on are the ones that speak to a personal experience or connection, or — back when they were titled “IMHO” — expressed an opinion that resonated with (or, in a few instances, upset) people.

However, the format that seems to be forwarded more often is the format that deals with lists — the three things you should know about…, the four steps you should take to…, the seven habits of folks who know what they’re doing. Now personally, I find those easier to write, and most of you would likely find those easier to get approval to post. They also seem to have a longer “shelf life,” and the best are almost evergreen in their utility.

It’s not as easy as it looks.

I’ve long said that everyone has one good column in them — it’s the second one that stymies many an aspiring writing career. But if there’s anything worse (certainly more disappointing) than not posting on social media, it’s doing it once, maybe twice, and then never doing it again. Sort of like that expensive treadmill you bought full of good intentions.

Try taking that one really good column, and breaking it into three. Or start by sharing other people’s ideas or columns along with what you took from it. You have to say more than just, “there’s good stuff in here” — tell folks what you found most interesting, insightful, what resonated with you. The key is to add value – your perspective – to the information you share.

It may not be easy at first. But, as with any kind of physical activity, it gets easier — and better — with practice.