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Should you share personal items on Facebook?

Matt Pais

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MDRT members debate what photos and comments clients should see.

SOMETIMES IT seems like nothing is official until it has appeared on social media. Like if you want people to know about anything, you need to post about it on a popular platform like Facebook.

But what should you be showing to your clients on your profile?

How individual advisors approach social media will be a factor of their practice, their clientele and countless other variables. To discuss what they post (or don’t) and why, we connected with two MDRT members on different sides of the debate.

“I’m not just a salesperson,” said Sherry Lee Ong, “but also a person who’s going through something and a person who helps.”

That’s part of why the nine-year MDRT member from Manila, Philippines, shares a variety of personal posts on Facebook, from an account of her charitable work (currently collecting donations for friends affected by a volcano’s eruption) to a reflection on the recent loss of her father to photos from her travels. The intention, she said, is to inspire others and help people relate to her beyond professional efforts.

“Taking a vacation or attending the MDRT Annual Meeting or going for an incentive trip — it’s me sharing my success with clients or friends,” she said. “As some people would say, ‘If you don’t like my posts, just unfollow me.’”

Ong, who specializes in retirement planning and critical illness coverage for 25-to-45-year-olds, said Facebook is a preferred social media platform in the Philippines. Her Facebook friends are primarily her actual friends (many of whom become clients after seeing the business-related items she posts), so there is less concern about overexposing herself to clients. It would be too labor-intensive to have separate accounts for business and personal matters, Ong said, and she will accept a friend request from a referred client but will not send one.

There is, however, something Ong has learned not to post. During the emotionally fraught campaign season for the 2016 presidential election in the Philippines, she discovered that sharing political opinions created the potential for arguments in the comments, which only sow more divide. So, while she did not take down her previous posts, she has decided not to post anything political again to avoid offending or sparking conflict with friends or clients.

And there’s one more limitation she’s implemented: posting just a photo or two from trips, not a whole album. “I’ve noticed that, if you only post one photo with a nice caption,” she said, “you get more attention.”

Marc A. Silverman, CFP, ChFC, doesn’t fault anyone who sees value in posting personal items on Facebook. For the 36-year MDRT member from Miami, Florida, though, it is a case of better safe than sorry.

“I don’t think my clients want to know what my lifestyle is,” said Silverman, who primarily works with middle-income clients. “If you’re going to post it on Facebook, you better make sure that, if it appeared on the front page of the newspaper, you’d be OK with that.”

In addition, Silverman said that personal material may distract people with items they don’t care about and take attention away from what they do. Silverman has separate accounts for his business (where he posts articles and relevant information for clients) and his personal life, but he still finds that oversharing there does more harm than good.

“If you post something bragging about the fact that you’re in Europe — ‘Look at me right now’ — if someone doesn’t care for that post or takes it the wrong way, it could go out to their network of friends and become something you don’t want people to see,” he said.

Silverman, who served as the 2018 MDRT Foundation President, has posted information on his personal page to raise awareness for MDRT Gives Day and other charitable endeavors. He also recognized that he might post more about himself if he had fewer online connections from his massive clientele of more than 2,000. But he is also aware of unintended consequences of digital transparency.

“If you let people know you’re out of town, your home can be targeted,” he said.


Sherry Ong

Marc Silverman


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