For those of us who are frequent users of social media, it’s hard to imagine a world without it. The explosion of social media has changed the way we communicate in our personal lives – and more recently, its influence is being felt in the way we do business.

The investment management industry might be the last holdout. While nearly 100 percent of financial services professionals surveyed in a recent Advent study reported using some form of social media, the industry has been slow to adopt social media beyond personal use. In fact, almost a third of financial services professionals say social media is not appropriate for the industry at all.

Except for that reluctant one-third – and I sense that they’ll soon change their minds – most of us have accepted that social media is becoming entrenched in the world of business, including financial services. Some of you may have already embraced social media, but many more of you may have decided to hold off until best practices have emerged.

Well, best practices have emerged, thanks to a few pioneers. In our survey, we found advanced users of social media have identified professional uses and strategies that significantly benefit their business. Not only have they figured out that they need to be active in social media because everyone else is, they’ve uncovered specific applications for finance. To those of you still unsure of the best ways to use the technology, these advanced users have valuable lessons to share.

On LinkedIn? Great! Time for Twitter. You’re probably on LinkedIn already, which makes sense, since it’s a social network geared specifically towards the business community. However, it’s time to explore other social media platforms for their professional utility. Each channel offers unique information, insights and means of interaction that can benefit your business.

According to an April 2012 report from Corporate Insight, 92 percent of financial services firms are on Twitter -- but that doesn’t mean they actively use it, our study suggests. Of the financial professionals we surveyed who consider themselves to be experienced social media users, more than two-thirds use Twitter for professional purposes, with financial advisors and planners the most likely to tweet professionally. However, that percentage shrinks to one-fourth when surveying financial professionals across the board. If you have a Twitter account, it’s time to start thinking of it as a business development tool: it’s a great way to engage your clients, build relationships, share company news and share your point of view on key industry issues and hot topics.

Our more socially savvy respondents recognize that the bigger their social footprint, the bigger the audience they will reach. Social media has introduced new paths for prospective clients to find, research and engage with professionals across the financial spectrum. Having a presence on multiple social channels makes it easier for clients, investors and other potential stakeholders to find you and connect.

YouTube is another social media powerhouse that’s worthy of your attention. YouTube is the number two search engine in the world, surpassing even Yahoo! People are spending more time on the web watching videos, and the video format is a great way to communicate your most important messages in a concise and engaging way.

Listen to your clients. Financial services is a relationship business, and social media is all about building relationships. Most likely, your clients are using and communicating on multiple social media platforms -- and they expect you to be, too. One out of four respondents in our survey reported feeling pressure from clients to be more active in social media.

Social media has become a forum to air complaints and other feedback, and it’s possible your clients and prospects are talking about you, too. Whether someone is praising you or voicing a complaint, you need to know what’s being said about you and how you’re perceived online.

Your clients’ activity on social media can also reveal a lot about their needs and interests. They might post links to their latest reading materials or comment on market trends that intrigue them. For example, a client might tweet a link to a white paper on high-yield debt – knowing about this interest creates an opportunity for you to have a conversation on this topic. Similarly, commenting on something a prospective client has posted on social media can be a great conversation starter.