Brooke’s Note: I was maybe the last of my generation to get a driver’s license. I knew that any moron could do it. After all every one of them that I knew was hot-rodding around town. But still there were a world of things to learn and I didn’t want to stop and figure them all out. I think Twitter is a bit like that. Anybody can do it — easily. But many people don’t know where to begin — or they are like the Massachusetts drivers of the information highway and should have their tweeting privileges revoked. In an act of empathy and — there-are-no-stupid-questions pedagogy — Aaron Klein has written a column that I think is a key primer for any Twitter or would-be Twitter user before they warble out their next tweet.

It seems like every industry conference I’m invited to, someone is exhorting advisors to get active on social media. That’s largely because advisors need to rapidly build an authentic relationship of trust, and demonstrate their expertise and influence, if they’re going to win new clients.

Twitter is one of the best ways to do that. It’s an easy way to share thoughts, ideas and links, is readily found when a client Googles your name, and can be a high-ROI way to demonstrate expertise. See: What to make of Sallie Krawcheck’s emergence as a Twitter-sphere celebrity.

But of all the social networks, Twitter can be the most intimidating for the uninitiated. It can seem a bit arcane or simplistic at first glance, and the 140-character count may seem daunting. But once you dive in and really connect with it, it often becomes an advisor’s favorite network for its speed and ease of engagement.

In fact, while Twitter is set up as a social network, it’s actually far more of an information network for me — I never go to the home page of news websites any longer. Twitter is where I discover what’s happening in my world. See: RIAs use Twitter to reflect on the life and legacy of Steve Jobs.

Here are a few tips that I’ve developed for my friends to help them get going on Twitter — needless to say, they work for financial advisors just as well.

1. You, not your firm

Set up a good profile. Use a nice photo, use your real name, and write a quick bio that gives context to who you are. You can check out my Twitter profile here as an example.

People like to follow people much more than they follow firms or brands. So you’re much better off being John Smith, president at Amazing Financial Advisors, than you’ll ever be tweeting under your firm’s name. Case in point: I have about 5,000 followers and my company has about 400. See: Sallie Krawcheck talks tough — and with disarming openness — online about the glass ceiling and lip gloss.

2. Where it’s @

Follow 40-50 people who are active, influential and engaging tweeters. Pick people who are posting about things you’re interested in. Follow a few smart advisors like jdbuerger cfctremont or michaelkitces. A few great resources for advisor technology are billwinterberg and @fintechie.

How do you know if someone on Twitter is active, influential or engaging? When I glance at somebody’s Twitter page, I quickly assess that by looking at three variables. How long since their last tweet? How many people are they following? And how many people follow them?

If they haven’t tweeted in two weeks, they’re probably not active (unless the last tweet is about an off-the-grid vacation). If they follow more than 800-1,000 people, they probably aren’t reading Twitter themselves and won’t engage. And if they follow more people than are following them, they’re either just getting started or they’re not that influential. See: How RIAs can maximize their web marketing with nary a 'friend-ing’ or tweet.

Skim the top 20 tweets and ask yourself, is this useful or interesting? If so, give 'em a follow. Following these kinds of people on Twitter will help you understand the unique rhythm of the network.

3. Tweeting once, tweeting twice

Conversely, remember that less is more. On a heavy day, tweet eight to 10 times. Most days, tweet once or twice. Spread them out across the day.

There are people who tweet 25-50 times a day, like my company’s prolific advisory board member Josh Brown (@ReformedBroker). Josh is wildly popular among traders who “live in the stream” on Twitter, largely because of his sharp insights and humor. I love having him in my stream. See: 'Reformed Broker’ and blogger 'Downtown’ Josh Brown joins BrightScope’s advisory board.

However, most of your prospective clients probably don’t want quite that much in theirs. Once you’ve experienced what it’s like to follow some people on Twitter, and dip into the stream a few times a day, think about what fits your audience best, and do that.

What to share? Focus your tweets on sharing ideas, quotes, jokes or links that would be interesting to prospective clients. You want your perfect prospective client to say “the last three things she tweeted were really interesting or made me think. If I don’t follow her on Twitter, I might miss something great.”

Some folks will say your tweets should be exclusively about investing or finance, and you should never say anything that others might disagree with. I think you’re better off being real and authentic. Let people get a glimpse of who you are. You can even delve into your opinions once in a while, as long as you’re even-handed, level-headed and fair. See: Why RIAs would rather go to Twitter than talk to a wholesaler.

One of our advisory board members, Barry Ritholtz, CEO of Fusion IQ, tweets political stuff that I completely disagree with. But his Twitter feed breathes authenticity. I feel like I know him as a person, even though we only see each other a few times a year.

4. Figure out the hashtag

Don’t be one of those people who hashtag every word, but do figure out how to join a discussion in progress. If everyone in your feed is talking about a #FlashCrash, that just happened, fire off a tweet with your thoughts or how you’re protecting your clients, and use that hashtag in the tweet.

What does a hashtag do? It simply lets people search and discover tweets talking about the same subject, even if you’re not following those other people. (Click a hashtag and you’ll see what I mean.) It’s a great way to find interesting people and to be found.

Write something particularly funny or insightful, and you might pick up a few hundred retweets or new followers.

5. Can’t fake it

If you start a tweet with someone’s user name (@aaronklein, for example), only that person and people who follow both of you will see it in the stream. Respond to people in your stream, and respond back to people who respond to you. It’s short, sweet, personal and doesn’t take much time.

Here’s the big question: So what? Why spend time and effort on this?

Well, If you do all of this well, you’ll gradually build a nice audience that starts thinking of you first whenever they need whatever it is that you do. This is the new way to build your influence as someone who knows what he or she is talking about.

Second, when prospective clients Google you to check your background, they will likely pull up your Twitter profile. This is an amazing opportunity for them to understand how you think and what makes you tick. It also substantiates that you’re a real person and not a fly-by-night operator. You can’t fake an authentic Twitter feed over the long run!

What happens if you make a mistake? Tweets can be deleted, but just like with any communication, you should definitely run it through a mental filter before you say it. If you really screw up, just own up to it. Tweet something like “on reflection, perhaps a better way to say that would be _____.”

Twitter can be a rewarding way for advisors to build influence and expand their client base. It’s not an instant return on investment, but it’s one that will grow over time and it’s too important to ignore. I hope you’ll join up, and if you do, tweet me a hello at @AaronKlein.

Aaron Klein is CEO of Riskalyze, the company helping advisors win new clients, capture and meet client expectations, and quantify suitability through quantitative risk tolerance. See: Riskalyze debuts website featuring 'worst’ wirehouse portfolios to shock and attract clients. He can be reached at AaronKlein or akleinriskalyze.com.