Social Media & Finance: Best Practices, Compliance, and Personal Hygiene.

My pink-shirted friend Mike Wilkins (aka @ilkandcookies) recently moderated a panel on Social Media in Finance which I was asked to participate on (most likely because 16 other people were too busy). Our panel spoke before a packed house at the event hosted by Markets Media in Chicago. Mike blogged about the questions he asked on the panel, and I thought I’d rehash and improve upon some of my answers for my readers.

How did you first “discover” social media? Was it personal/professional?

My first experience with social media was probably facebook, which I reluctantly joined. When I first discovered twitter, I initially found it interesting but then quickly found it to be a huge waste of time. It wasn’t until I read a story in Barron’s about traders on twitter that I thought maybe I should give it another look. I soon started talking about stocks, and then somebody turned me on to StockTwits. Once I realized there was a targeted, focused group who was talking the Markets all day long – I was hooked. StockTwits was exactly what I was looking for.

What was the “ah-ha” moment when you first realized you could leverage it for business?

I started following great traders who shared great info and/or had blogs. These guys/girls were sharing amazing information. I was blown away at the amount of work that was going into their efforts. Watching these people work, I realized: This is the best way to display to people – in realtime – how talented you are and the quickest way to network with like-minded people. The best of the best will rise to the top in a true meritocracy and they’ll be able to leverage it into raising capital, getting hired, finding talent, or building a brand.

What are your preferred mediums?

As a member of the community and now an employee of the company – I’m naturally biased towards StockTwits. For Traders and investors, StockTwits is social media nirvana. You have the ability to quickly discover real-time discussions taking place in Stocks that interest you, engage others in conversation, and learn from them via the stream or links and blog posts they share. I truly wish this tool was available to me when I began trading in 1998.

I also dabble on facebook and recently google+, though not as much as I used too, mostly as a way to stay in contact with my non-trading friends and family. And of course I’m on twitter, which is really a natural extension of my participation on StockTwits.

How do you tailor your message for each?

It’s pretty simple. Any time I’m talking about stocks/markets/finance/economy/etc, I push those messages out via StockTwits. This is the perfect venue for this discussion and the kind of information my followers expect.

Everything else non-markets-related gets divvied up amongst twitter, facebook, and google+ with probably 90% of it going to twitter. I’m a bit of a smart-ass, so typically this is where my true colors shine ;)

Benefits/drawbacks of each?

The benefits of messaging from StockTwits is that my finance discussions are taking place with a focused group of dedicated market participants. The ultimate niche audience. And this allows me to keep my messages here (if I choose) so as not to bother my non-finance friends with market gobbley-gook that only us weirdos understand. Also, my messages from StockTwits appear with our partners Yahoo Finance, Reuters, CNN Money, Bloomberg, and more. That’s pretty cool.

The greatest benefit I get from twitter is the ability to ask the world a question and get nearly immediate feedback. The biggest drawbacks are the inability to send messages to select groups (something google+ is addressing), the prevalence of spammers that pollute my streams, and the occasional follow who used to be interesting and now just twitter barfs inane messages by the dozens. Every minute. Every day. Enough already! (Of course, I’m guilty of this from time to time)

Any particular mediums you shy away from?

I have a LinkedIN account, but really only access it when somebody requests to “link-up” with me. I then either accept or ignore and then move on. I never got into myspace (thankfully) and I haven’t gotten into any of these music communities (spotify, ping, etc) which is surprising because I’m such a music geek.

Do you actually try and qualify ROI at all?

Yes and no. Do I have or care about actual metrics? No. But I do hope to be getting something out of my social media efforts. And I have in spades. Social Media is truly an arena where the people who get the most out of it are those who put the most into it. The Givers. It might be a cliche, but it has been absolutely true for me. I wrote a blog post last winter briefly reviewing a book titled “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg & John David Mann in which they discuss their 5 laws for stratospheric success:

  1. The Law of Value: Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
  2. The Law of Compensation: Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
  3. The Law of Influence: Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
  4. The Law of Authenticity: The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
  5. The Law of Receptivity: The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

This book wasn’t written with Social Media specifically in mind, but its message is being practiced (knowingly or not) by all the best people on StockTwits, twitter, facebook, google+, and elsewhere. A highlight of 2011 for me was being able to meet and interview one of the authors of this book after he came across me discussing his book on my blog and on twitter. How cool is that? You can read our very enlightening discussion here.

How do you deal with skeptics and haters? How do you self-censor when something difficult happens?

In almost every case, the best course of action is to just ignore it. It always sucks to have your ego bruised, but engaging the hater in a public discussion only encourages their boorish behavior and makes it worse. My man Phil Pearlman (@ppearlman on StockTwits) had an excellent blog post up about this recently and I think he puts it best:

“When you respond, you allocate valuable energy away from constructive pursuits. You comply with the hater whose intentions are to provoke.”

Check out his blog post: Ignoring the Haters.

What compliance issues do you face? Internal? External?

I, personally, do not face any compliance issues in my interaction with Social Media, but at StockTwits we have an entire segment of our user base that is highly sensitive to compliance issues and want to participate in a way that won’t run them afoul of the SEC, FTC, or whatever latest czar or task force Washington dreams up. We’ve listened to the needs of these Members and StockTwits has rolled out Enterprise solutions to address these needs. Contact me directly if you’d like more information on this. I’m happy to help.

How do you deal with erroneous information?

The beauty of Social Media is the speed with which information travels. However, the flip side is also the ease in which misinformation travels. As in anything in life, a little bit of common sense will go a long way. If it sounds too good or outlandish to be true – it probably is. And it’s from somebody you don’t know and is accompanied with a link – it’s probably spam or worse, a virus or malware.

It takes some time, but you have to cultivate a network of trusted confidantes online. When you’ve accomplished this, you quickly learn who you can trust and who you need to seek further confirmation

How do you keep it fresh?

I attempt – but not always succeed – to shower and brush my teeth daily.

How do you avoid the fine line between information and self-promotion?

People are smarter than you think. We know when we’re being marketed to. And we hate it.

If you’ve got a product or service to sell, the worst thing you can do is make it all about you. The people that are all “LOOK AT ME! CHECK OUT MY SERVICE! BUY MY PRODUCT! I’M THE BEST! PLEASE RETWEET!” are the people that quickly turn off their followers. If you’ve got a great product or service or program, share it. The more you demonstrate your ability to share great information utilizing your product or service, the more people will begin to trust you. The more people trust you, the more they will seek out exactly what it is you do and what you offer. It happens organically.

The ambulance chasing lawyers and in-your-face local car dealership commercials may work on late-night TV, but in social media where people can instantly tune you out  – you’re just noise and quickly discarded. Be real. Provide value. Engage with communities. Share.

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Thanks to Vincent Veneziani at Markets Media for hosting the event in Chicago and for including me on the panel. And thanks to Mike Wilkins for doing a kick-ass job moderating and steering the panel. His jokes were lame, but at least his pink shirt provided some comedy.

The information in this blog post represents my own opinions and does not contain a recommendation for any particular security or investment. I or my affiliates may hold positions or other interests in securities mentioned in the Blog, please see my Disclaimer page for my full disclaimer.

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