Morgan Stanley’s Green Light for Social Media – Bankers or Bots?

On 25th June, Lauren Boyman, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (MSSB)’s Head of Social Media sent out these two tweets in quick succession:

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The “green light” was for Twitter and LinkedIn for MSSB’s 17,000 financial advisors. The “successful pilot” had been a year long, with an initial group of 600 being allowed to use both sites. The “compliant way” was the catch… tweets must be selected from a library of pre-written messages. For example:

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Having spent 15 years in the City, 13 of those with Morgan Stanley, I’m fully aware of the challenges. Of course there are compliance and regulatory requirements to manage, but professionals know what they can and cannot say publically, and technology can ensure appropriate records are kept.

There’s also fear – having benefited from Corporate Communications when at Morgan Stanley, I was conscious and apprehensive about there being no front line of defence when I first joined social media. Having found the Twitter account and bio for J. Scott Irwin however, MSSB advisers can rest assured that Big Brother is watching! (Maybe that adds to the fear?!)

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But at its heart, all business is about relationships. Relationships are built on conversations, and social media is just another way to talk – old rules, new tools.

How can you build trust, show personality and spontaneity, be social… human, when you’re restricted to talking from a script? Being social on social media requires interaction and engagement. If every tweet is pre-written and pre-approved, how can we be certain there’s actually a person tweeting?

Having a library of content, where it’s easy to find official data and messages, is a great start. Advisors should then be given the freedom to share this information in their own tone of voice. People buy from people.

Throughout my time at Morgan Stanley I felt it a privilege to work with amazingly talented people – exactly the type of individuals who can wow others with their expertise and insights, and can build trust at a time of mistrust in the financial sector.

In the article that Lauren Boyman links to above, there’s mention of a small trial of 20 that have “been given the ability to write their own tweets”. I was pleased to find one such individual, and couldn’t help but smile at her retort to the critics (the link in her tweet is to an article titled “Morgan Stanley: Nothing personal – encouraged to be boring”):

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I was even more pleased to see that less than 24 hours after I tried to start a conversation, there was a magical reply:

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“… autonomy – within regulatory guidelines” – cheery, smart, nice! And good practice for every aspect of a trusted professional’s working life, not just for their social media use.

I know that change takes time. MSSB’s green light may not be on full beam, but what they’ve done is bold relative to other Wall Street firms. I would love to keep in touch with a firm I spent 13 years with through Twitter – if I can be sure that I’m following bankers, not bots!

6 Examples of Twitter Profile Disclaimers

As a B2B company starting out on Twitter, one of the things that’ll likely come up in planning meetings is the legal disclaimer that typically accompanies any written output. It’s an understandable question, so as financial, legal and other professional services are now stepping out on Twitter, it’s worth having a look at what the early adopters are doing.

(You may question whether a disclaimer is necessary at all, but we’ll leave that debate aside for the moment).

Disclaimer on the Page Background

Morgan Stanley’s corporate account has a disclaimer on the background of their Twitter page. This has the upside of being able to display more than the 160 character limit of a Twitter bio, but the downside that it’s not visible to anyone accessing Twitter through a mobile client or app like Tweetdeck or CubeSocial.

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Pfizer have a similar approach but don’t provide a disclaimer as such, instead using the Twitter background to provide important links – including how to report adverse events.

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Disclaimer in the Bio Link

In June Morgan Stanley Smith Barney financial advisors got the go ahead to use Twitter. All 17,000 accounts have the same link in their bio pointing to MMSB’s legal disclaimer.

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Barclays Online takes a similar approach.

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With this approach the disclaimer will be available from all Twitter clients. The downside is that you are losing a potential marketing opportunity – that link could instead be used to direct people to a Twitter-specific landing page.

Disclaimer in the Bio

For those wanting to make it clear that they are tweeting in a personal capacity, the classic “all opinions are my own” is often included in the Twitter bio.

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No Disclaimer at All

Interestingly, the most common approach among the accounts we reviewed (even among B2B, legal and financial services companies) was to have no disclaimer at all. You’d think law firms would insist on disclaimers, right? But we checked the official Twitter accounts of the top 10 UK law firms and not one had a disclaimer on show. It seems that in the world of social media for lawyers, the accepted wisdom is that disclaimers don’t matter.

Perhaps the best advice we can give is, if you wouldn’t say it to your grandma, don’t say it on Twitter.

Do you have a Twitter disclaimer? Have you seen any examples of good disclaimers?