Social media networks have become an essential tool to help financial advisors stay in touch with existing clients, connect with potential clients and communicate regularly with centers of influence through information sharing. Although social media channels are an acceptable communication channel, some advisors are still hesitant to reach out to and connect with clients online. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because your firm hasn’t yet established compliance guidelines for social media activity, you haven’t yet made social media a part of your daily schedule or that reaching out to people you may or may not know on the internet seems a little unconventional. (For more, see: Why Social Media is a Necessity for Financial Advisors.)

There may be some skeptics who feel that communicating with others over the internet is unprofessional. However, the truth is clients want to be contacted via online channels because that’s where they spend a lot of their time and it’s convenient. Keep in mind that a professional social media network like LinkedIn is not an AOL chat room and it’s not 1995. There are over 400 million users on LinkedIn and over one billion users on Facebook. It’s safe to say that clients want to use social media channels as a form of communication.

With that being said, there are social media best practices as well as LinkedIn features that can help advisors approach clients in a professional manner. After all LinkedIn’s purpose is to help you network, so they want to make it as easy as possible to do so. Here are four ways to make connections on LinkedIn.

Get in Touch With Current Clients

Sometimes trying to reach clients via email and phone is impossible. With busy lives people don’t always have the luxury of answering a phone call. However, according to AdWeek, people spend 1.72 hours a day or 28% of their online time on social media channels. It’s very convenient to reach them through those networks and it increases the chances of getting in touch versus a one minute phone call. (For related reading, see: How Advisors Are Leveraging Social Media.)

Connect With Potential Clients

Although each advisor has a target niche market and an area of specialty, almost anyone can be a prospective client. You just never know what a client needs or their personal financial situation until you get in touch. It’s easy to find potential clients using the People You May Know (in the top right hand corner of your LinkedIn homepage) and the Advanced search feature on LinkedIn (located to the right of the top search bar). You can search for prospects by using a number of criteria with the Advanced search feature such as location, current company, industry and school.

It’s easiest to start with second degree connections because they aren’t total strangers. They will see that you have connections in common on LinkedIn and this increases the chances of your invitation to connect being accepted. Remember to personalize the message when applicable. It’s always nice to put a name and face together.

Prepare for a First Meeting

Connecting with clients before a meeting, or at least having a look at their LinkedIn profile, lets you get to know them before meeting face to face. It also gives clients a chance to get to know you as well. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date with your latest education, experience and certifications. (For more, see: 7 Top Ways to Enhance Your LinkedIn Profile.)

It’s also helpful to add some personal information such as causes you support, volunteer experience and hobbies because it adds a personal side to your professional profile. These sections can all be found by clicking on Profile – Edit profile – Add a section to your profile – View More. Letting clients learn about your personal interests – and learning about theirs – helps you find things in common. Maybe you both enjoy running, support Little League Baseball or have a passion for cooking. Common interests can help break the ice during your first meeting.

Follow Up After the Last Meeting

If you don’t have a chance to connect with clients before your first meeting, you can connect with them afterwards. It’s a great way to follow up, thank them for taking the time to meet with you and ask if they have questions based on your discussion. Anytime you have a reason to connect with potential clients the odds of the invitation being accepted increase.

Once clients are connected with you on LinkedIn they will see your profile, get your latest updates and be able to contact you directly at any time. This is why it’s so important to stay active daily on social media networks by sharing helpful information and writing your own blog posts. Every time you do, your name gets in front of all your connections and that keeps you top of mind. Maybe a client isn’t home to receive your phone call, but when they see your post on LinkedIn it reminds them that they need to call you back.

The Bottom Line

Using social media networks as a way to grow your network, make new connections and share information with clients is fast, efficient and cost effective. Now the only question is, are you on LinkedIn and if so are you making the most of it?