Social networking is no longer merely the province of the creative classes. Millions of business professionals have joined sites like Facebook -- the platform that allows people to share photos, links or information with a network of friends and that has more than 200 million active users worldwide -- and LinkedIn, a networking site that is more business oriented and has 35 million users. Gaining fast in popularity is Twitter, with about five million users who exchange information with their network of friends in short bursts of no more than 140 characters.

Wharton marketing professor Eric Bradlow, co-director of the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative, has spent several years studying self-marketing for financial services professionals -- one of the hardest-hit sectors in the current slowdown. He says developing a personal "brand" can be as important for a financial advisor as for a rock musician. Bradlow is co-author of a book to be published this summer titled, Marketing For Financial Advisors: Build Your Business by Establishing Your Brand, Knowing Your Clients and Creating a Marketing Plan.

"In these times, people need to differentiate themselves," notes Bradlow, who became interested in this topic five years ago when he learned that training for financial services professionals almost never included any education about marketing and self-promotion. Bradlow believes it is critical for a worker in the financial sector -- especially those who are sole practitioners or run a small business -- to develop a brand identity to convince would-be clients to choose them over a large field of rivals. He advises business people to come up with three simple words to define a personal brand -- words that could describe a specialized skill set or simply community involvement.

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