Social media is awesome. Especially for a self-confessed voyeur like myself. I love checking out what folk are up to without the actual hassle of human engagement. All the stalking, with none of the small talk. Win-win really.

It’s also a fascinating window into people’s spending habits. From new sports gear and kick-ass shoes, to the endless parade of pretty coffees, social media tells the truth about where all the money goes.
And as for the hashtags. Lol.

#yolo #worthit #bling #swag #therapy #shoppingspree #need and, of course, my all time fav #girlswillbegirls (oh, sisters, you’ve drunk the kool-aid).

I think it’s time for a new #hashup. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could start humblebragging our money cunning. I can see the tweets now:

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Jokes aside, one of the things I’ve absolutely loved about living in the digital age is the always-on access to other people’s smarts. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and all the myriad others are awash with really cool ways to not only save money, but to really make it work. To think about it differently. To use it as a tool, not be owned by it. It’s also been a real eye-opener about how different people relate to money.

Social gives us access to serious, accelerated learning, or what Chris Anderson, curator at TED, calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation. That is, we can see how other people do things, learn from them and then try them ourselves. Multiplied exponentially by the size of the community of other experts and / or experimenters you’re tapped into.

Anderson references dance and TED talks and the upward spiral of improvement both experienced as people engaged with content online, and then adapted what they watched and learned with ideas of their own.

Personal finance is no different. It’s evident in the explosion of innovation in money-related services (think SnapScan, Kickstarter etc.). And it works on the individual level too. If you seek out interesting, money clever folk online, the learning by osmosis is almost inevitable. And social media gives you the quick in to some of the smartest minds in the industry.

This quickly googled list, for example, offers a range of experts on twitter who deal exclusively with the subject of money, from advice specifically for under 30s to accounts that facilitate chats on personal finance topics like debt reduction and savings. It’s a pretty North American list, but a lot of the links and stories and personal testimonials have application here at home too. Spend some time finding some local voices you respect, and pay attention.

But like all industries, there is good advice, and bad. So here are four thoughts to consider when you go social…

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The only people who get rich quick are lottery winners. And even they bought tickets for years. Every worthwhile success is built on a foundation of some good old graft. Don’t be caught in the next Ponzi or pyramid scheme. A healthy dose of scepticism is vital when sourcing info in the social web.

Look for the themes. You’ll start to get a strong sense of what’s worthwhile as opposed to what’s suspect by looking for key, consistent themes. If everyone is saying you need a budget, then do a damn budget. If everyone is saying don’t leave your spare cash under your mattress, then maybe it’s time to invest. That doesn’t mean that the outlier advice isn’t valuable. Just treat it with a little more care and don’t trust your whole financial stability on a lone voice.

Avoid information overload. There is SO much information out there that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I’ve often been paralysed into indecision by reading one too many articles on the pros or the cons of a specific action. Usually then, I stop. Leave it a couple of days. And then go with my gut (or the advice of someone I really trust). Getting trapped in the indecision is not awesome. But not doing anything is not really an option either.

Don’t only trust the timeline. Looking to negotiate your salary? Want to invest some money? Want to save for your kids education? Sure, go online and research the heck out of it. Ask those online experts questions. But also, ask your folks, your friends, a financial advisor you trust. The internet can be a wonderful source of information, but as the old saying goes, don’t believe everything you read. Talk to people who’ve been where you are for some real life balance.

Kate Wolters

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Kate is a freelance marketing & communications consultant. She also dabbles in change management. By day she helps brands speak human to humans. By night she takes care of her small boy child and lurks about on 'the interwebs'. A lot. She has a mixed bag of interesting skills, gathered in a career featuring stints as a cat-herder, fish farmer, assistant zoo keeper and executive P.A. to a mad Frenchman. Find her at www.katewolters.com

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