I spent some time recently as part of a judging panel interviewing finalists across a couple of adviser categories for a major awards ceremony. 

    What struck me about each of the interviewees was their commitment to improvement, and to bettering both client outcomes and the systems and processes of their respective businesses. 

    They demonstrated a constant drive to engage, improve and innovate, all with the aim of continuing to address the different needs of their clients. 

    It was all incredibly impressive. I have a huge amount of respect for these firms and the countless others who entered for their willingness to be weighed and measured, as well as for their candour and their engagement with the wider profession.

    In my opinion, this desire to improve, learn and interact with our wider community demonstrates the very best of the collaborative nature of our dynamic, hard-working profession. 

    Yet I struggle to see this same sense of collaboration when it comes to social media.

    As it happens, I came to social media fairly late.

    In fact, I still recall the lunch with Abbie Knight (Abbie Tanner as she was then) and former Institute of Financial Planning boss Nick Cann when they convinced me to overcome my scepticism and to join Twitter. 

    I followed their advice was immediately glad I did so.

    People like Capital Asset Management's Alan Smith were quick to welcome me on board, and I was able to reconnect as if by magic with colleagues from my armed forces days.

    The potential for connectivity, for the sharing of knowledge and so much more really impressed me across the different social media channels. 

    Engaging with and reading a wide range of material drawn from leaders in our profession in the UK and beyond, as well as from outside our own profession, is incredibly appealing. The fact this spans areas of interest such as practice development, behavioural psychology and branding makes it even more so. 

    However, and it does pain me to say this, I am becoming increasingly disenchanted with some of the behaviour I see on social media.

    You have the incessant arguments over trivial issues, the comments posted online that would never be made in person, and all capped off with an 'if you're not with me, you're against me' kind of mentality. 

    It is all so depressing. Where is the willingness to improve and interact positively with the wider profession that I saw in abundance in the awards judging?

    I am not entirely sure why this situation exists. 

    We all need to interact, to explore new ideas and concepts, to try and improve what we do and to deliver the outcomes our clients want and need. 

    Using the tools available and that social media offers us, we can hone our skills, learn different techniques and share best practice with each other in a professional and open way. Doing that can only serve our profession in the longer term so that we are held in ever greater esteem, by both our clients and by each other.

    Admittedly, it’s not easy to always get it right.

    Having a limited number of characters at your disposal can have the effect of truncating discussions, and can remove subtle nuances or attempts at humour.

    To help me from my own tendency to jump straight in, I have some rules that I personally stick to, and that I tried to instill into my old team when running my advice business.

    Basically, these rules all boil down to having respect for yourself and respect for others and their opinions. 

    If I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying it in person, then I shouldn’t say it via a keyboard. 

    Of course, it's not just our own connections that may see our posts and comments. It's also our clients and prospective clients, the regulator and our professional connections.

    Robust debate and differences in opinion are valuable, but they should surely never fall to the level of the personal attack or the rude comment.

    It is called social media for a reason.

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