COMMENT: Why bankers stay away from social media. And nine ways they can be good at it

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Social media is not just for fun. If managed properly, it can help you expand your network within banking and finance, build relationships with friends, gain trust from your colleagues, help win and retain clients, and even get you a new banking job. You will also attract people who share your values and interests.

Many of us have hundreds, if not thousands of online connections, so our posts tend to get lost in seas of food, holidays and kids’ photos. What should we post online to get more engagement and build a personal brand as banking professionals? Here are my nine tips:

1. Be consistent

To develop an online brand as a banker, you’ll want to make sure you have a consistent profile across all social media platforms. For example, you need the same (or a similar) profile photo, background image and bio across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and WhatsApp. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking your photo needs to be less formal for Facebook compared with LinkedIn – use a professional-looking image on all of them. When you move your conversation from, say, Facebook to WhatsApp, your connections will feel seamless, and your brand will stay intact.

2. Take interesting photos

The human brain is attracted to visuals more than text, so post interesting and thoughtful photos. Shoot from a low or high angle to give your connections a different perspective. Capture vivid colours. Create photo stories that include an introductory shot, a closeup to show details, and a parting shot to end the story.

3. Start your social posts strongly

Adults today have an attention span of only about eight seconds. When you write, you’ll want to capture readers’ attention with the first sentence. Here’s a great example from the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins: “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born...”.

4. Tell a story

People are attracted to stories, so you’ll want to tell stories in your posts. Stories have three key elements: 1) setting and characters, 2) conflict, and 3) resolution. Whether they are Cinderella stories or Mission Impossible movies, they all have the same three elements. But they need not be long. The shortest story has six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” By Ernest Hemingway.

5. Post once a week

Ideally, you’ll want to post once a week, but if you can’t spare the time, once a month is also fine. The best time to post is when your connections are likely to be checking their social media, so posting during the rush-hour evening commute is a good idea. Weekend mornings and evenings work well, too.

6. Add value to readers

Being upgraded to business or first class may make you feel euphoric but writing a post about this doesn’t do much for your connections. To build your brand, you’ll want to add value to them. If you want to post about the food you just ate, go behind the scenes, talk to the chef, and take photos of the kitchen. If you want to post about your holiday, write about the local friend you just met.

7. Go from online to offline

To have interesting online posts, you’ll want to engage in interesting offline activities. Hosting networking drinks, speaking at events and interviewing interesting people are a few examples.

8. Be observant

Ideas for writing social posts can be right in front of your eyes. When I visited Gardens by the Bay in Singapore recently during a tour, I saw three gardeners removing lotus plants. I spoke with them and found out they were doing this to allow new flowers to grow. Removing the old and making ways for the new – that’s life, isn’t it? So instead of posting photos of the well-known tourist site, I wrote about my interesting conversation with the gardeners.

9. Reveal failure

Most social media post only show the positive side of life, but we know that life has its ups and downs. So when you post something that reveals your weakness or talks about your failure, you make it easier for others to share their failures too. Remember when there’s no conflict, there’s no story.

Singaporean Eric Sim failed his mathematics exams at age 13 and then went on to fail English at age 14. Now, he writes about life and career skills for his 2.5m followers on Linkedin. He is the founder of Institute of Life, which trains young professionals to be successful at work and in life. A former managing director at UBS Investment Bank in Hong Kong, Eric is also Adjunct Associate Professor at HKUST.

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