Social Graces

Recently, while dining out with friends, our food server delivered the wrong order to our table. The dish also happened to be topped with an ingredient of which one friend is seriously allergic. While thanking our server for the prompt delivery I calmly explained the situation. She was horrified and apologetic. We threw in some humor—“Does anyone have 911 on speed dial?”—which really improved things; five minutes later our corrected food order arrived. When we received our bill, two meals had been credited back to us. The entire experience spoke to the effectiveness of courteous, respectful interaction and it reminded me that, oftentimes, kind-hearted engagement just works.

This principle extends to many modes and areas of interaction. Minding your manners in the digital space is critical, but that’s often underestimated, unconsidered, or just plain forgotten. Some people seem to forget courtesy when the face-to-face aspect of connection isn’t part of the equation.

Without The Tone, What is the Message? Written communications, whether via email or social media networks, can easily be misconstrued. Without the benefit of voice inflection, tone, pitch, and facial expressions, it can be difficult to judge the actual tenor of a situation.

There are times that the written word can be interpreted in different ways by different people. (“I think they’re expecting a serious reply” versus “They’re being sarcastic, right?”) Be sure to review your own communications before pressing that send or publish button (particularly given the regulatory hurdles financial advisors face), to ensure you are sending the message you intend. If your message is lighthearted, keep your jokes squarely in neutral territory; all other dialogue should be straightforward and sincere to eliminate any chance of confusion or misinterpretation.

Venue Change, Rules Remain: Connections made through a smartphone or laptop must be treated as the Digital Age equivalent of a traditional desktop advisor-client meeting. The existence of Twitter and LinkedIn don’t exempt us from social graces. Though many of our interactions now happen on social media platforms instead of boardrooms or restaurants, we are still able to extend that metaphorical hand. Greet people, introduce yourself, be as respectful as if you were having coffee, and engage. This may take a bit of practice before it feels like an intuitive part of your financial advisor marketing strategy, but you’ll soon be quite skilled at relationship-building with a vast audience of people located all over the world.

Social networking platforms aren’t faceless communities; these are real conversations with real people. It is as important as ever to remember your ‘pleases and thank yous’ when making connections and looking for business opportunities. Everyone appreciates an expression of gratitude, so make sure to extend thanks for recommendations or introductions to potential new clients.

Don’t Go Directly to No: With a presence on several social networks, I receive quite a few connection requests. When I don’t know who has initiated the request, or maybe it is someone I met once in passing, or perhaps they are associated with a mutual friend, I can always choose to decline or ignore the request. But networking isn’t just about connecting with people I already know. I take a close look at those requests as to not overlook a valuable contact. I usually respond to vague requests with a note, asking the person for more information on why we’d make a good connection.

Your online personality is a major deciding factor people use to form their first and lasting impression about you and your business. When marketing financial services, be intentional and mindful that Virtual You is acting in alignment with Real Life You.

To read more on this topic, click here to read a similar, unabridged blog post I wrote on AdvisorTweets.com, titled Mind Your Social Media Manners.

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