Social media isn't just for selfies and connecting with your coworkers and family anymore — it can also be a great place to learn about managing your money and even find a financial advisor.
Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram have surged in popularity in the last decade as places to socialize digitally and connect professionally. This year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, more people have been leaning on social platforms to stay in touch and avoid spreading or catching Covid-19.
Connecting via the internet can also be a big win for financial experts — 74% of advisors using social media for business were able to start a relationship online or find new clients since February, according to a June survey from Putnam Investments.
If you're going to use social media to learn more about money management and potentially find a financial advisor, there are a few benefits to keep in mind, and things to watch out for.
Find the best fit
One of the best reasons to follow financial advisors on various social media platforms is to get a glimpse of their personality. How they conduct themselves online will reflect their money and life philosophies, as well as personal styles of engagement.
"If they're sharing their opinions and takes, you can get some insights into what it would be like to work with them," said certified financial planner Douglas Boneparth, founder and president of Bone Fide Wealth in New York and a member of CNBC's Advisor Council.
More from Invest in You:
Moving to a cheaper city may be worth it, even if it means a pay cut
Many Americans will need long-term care. Here's how to pay for it
Job scams increased during the pandemic. How to avoid falling for one
You can also find advisors that work with specific groups that you might be a part of, said CFP Cathy Curtis. The founder and owner of Curtis Financial Planning in Oakland, California, and a member of the CNBC Advisor Council, Curtis recommends following hashtags such as #FinancialTwitter, #FinTwit or #WomenInFinance.
There's also the opportunity to see how advisors communicate, especially as more branch out into video, according to Advisor Council member Winnie Sun, director and founding partner of Sun Group Wealth Partners in Irvine, California. In addition to posting videos on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, YouTube is becoming an increasingly popular social media site, especially for younger clients, she said.
Make sure you do a background check
While there are many places on social media to learn about financial planning and connect with experts, people should be careful on the internet — not everyone that has a finance-related account is an expert with consumers' best interests at heart.
"The last thing in the world you want to happen here is you think you're reading something that's valid or sounds smart, and it's – you know – completely wrong," said Boneparth, adding that anyone giving investment advice or soliciting clients online is a red flag.
To steer clear of shady figures, you have to do your due diligence, said Sun. Financial advisors can't publish endorsements from clients, so it's unlikely that you'll find reviews online, she said.
To see what kind of licenses or credentials someone has, Sun recommends using FINRA's BrokerCheck, an online tool that details the experience of advisors, brokers and firms.
Some of the top credentials to look for are CFPs, registered investment advisors and certified public accountants, according to Curtis, who has been connecting with clients on social media for more than a decade. If someone you'd like to work with is an RIA, you can also look up their firm's Form ADV, a document they must submit to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and state securities authorities detailing their business.
You'll also want to make sure that any advisor you're consider is a fiduciary, meaning someone legally and ethically bound to act in your best interest, said Curtis. All RIAs must be fiduciaries, and many other financial advisors are, as well.
It's also a good idea to research different fee structures and understand how different advisors are paid, said Curtis. Some advisors may earn commissions for selling different products, which might not be a good fit for you. Generally, she recommends finding fee-only, independent advisors.
Advancing the conversation
After going over an advisor's background, the next step is to start a conversation about working together.
If you follow that advisor on social media, "DMs are totally fine for reaching out," said Sun, who has landed more than one major client through social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
After you've gotten in touch with an advisor, they may have you fill out a questionnaire or share some basic financial information to make sure they can help you, she said.
If your needs are a good fit for the advisor, the next step is probably a phone call or Zoom meeting. Make sure you come prepared with any questions you'd like answered about fee structure or an advisor's practice, as well as some of your goals for working with a financial planner.
Use the call as another chance to vet your advisor for personal fit. "When it comes to financial planning and advice, the days of it just being transactional are kind of over," said Boneparth. "Long story short, it's really a relationship."
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.