Most financial advisors regularly use LinkedIn (LNKD) as a way to keep in touch with clients and colleagues, but one too many social media tools like Twitter (TWTR) and Facebook (FB) have been historically a bit risky given the lack of regulatory guidance on their usage. After all, any communications must adhere to federal securities laws governing anti-fraud provisions, compliance provisions, and recordkeeping provisions that could make the entire process burdensome.

The good news is that federal regulators and other governing bodies have been releasing a lot of guidance on how social media tools can be used by financial advisors. In these documents, the picture becomes more clear when it comes to recordkeeping requirements, testimonial rules, and other considerations with using social media. Many financial advisors have responded by slowly beginning to embrace Twitter as a key tool for reaching clients. (For more, see: How Does Twitter Make Money?)

In this article, we’ll take a look at some foundational steps to take when setting up a Twitter account to maximize the effectiveness of this social media tool.

Build the Right Branding

Twitter users send more than 6,000 tweets per second, 350,000 tweets per minute, 500 million tweets per day, and 200 billion tweets per year. With so much competition, it’s important for financial advisors to build a compelling brand that sets them apart from the noise. Simply setting up an account with the firm’s name, generic images, and then reposting content from blogs isn’t enough to gather a large and engaged audience over time.

The most important branding elements include:

  • Pick a Unique Handle. Instead of choosing a Twitter name like @acmeco, try a unique handle like @reformedbroker that draws some intrigue and is memorable.
  • Consistent Branding. Be sure to use the same profile images between social media accounts so people know they’re talking to the same person.
  • A Complete Profile. Completely fill out the Twitter profile page with information about yourself and your firm with links, logos, and pictures. (For more, see: Implementing a Small Business Social Media Strategy.)

Engage with Others

Many Twitter users treat the platform as a platform to speak rather than a way to engage others in meaningful conversation. In most cases, those simply posting links to a blog without any thoughtful remarks or context tend to quickly become lost in the noise. The automated scripts of the past that churned out these types of tweets are no longer effective in generating an engaged audience that offers real value to your business.

The most important engagement tips include:

  • Use the Search Function. Search for keywords related to topics that you’re interested in (or your network is interested in) and use relevant hashtags to converse with others.
  • Follow Others. Follow those that engage in conversations with you and build your online interactions with them over time into meaningful interactions.
  • Make It Useful. Focus on providing meaningful contributions to conversations rather than engaging in self-promotion or useless banter. (For more, see: Small Business Marketing Techniques.)

Track the Results

Twitter outreach has become easier to measure with the development of software tools designed to show trends in tweets, retweets, followers, and click-throughs. When combined with website tracking software such as Google Analytics, these tools can help ensure that you’re creating real value through social media rather than simply talking to nobody. The software can also help keep track of conversations and ensure timely postings.

The most popular Twitter tracking software includes:

  • Buffer. Buffer enables users to schedule tweets to be spread out throughout the day, while providing analytics on what tweets users loved and interacted with the most.
  • HootSuite. HootSuite enables users to schedule tweets and view analytics, as well as interact with team members to create a compelling Twitter presence.
  • enables users to shorten links and share them on Twitter, while providing useful analytics on click-through rates on certain comments.

The Bottom Line

Twitter is a great tool for financial advisors to reach new audiences over time, but it’s important to create meaningful content and conversations, as well as track results to ensure that you’re not wasting any time. Fortunately, the tools and techniques outlined in this article make these efforts a lot easier, although advisors should be sure to remain within compliance with federal regulatory guidelines and other securities rules. (For more, see: Social Media 'Don'ts' for Financial Advisors.