Morgan Stanley joins the virtual cocktail party… with chaperones

imageMorgan Stanley’s ears must have been burning! I was talking about their social media use just last week, with an international consultancy that currently trains their consultants to tweet from a library of pre-written messages. 

The conversation reminded me of Morgan Stanley’s Green Light for Social Media – Bankers or Bots? because Morgan Stanley were heavily criticised for adopting the same approach when they approved 17,000 financial advisers to use Twitter and LinkedIn back in June 2012. If every tweet that you share is scripted and pre-approved, how can the contacts that you’re trying reach know that there’s a real person tweeting?

It’s taken two years, but this week Morgan Stanley finally gave their brokers freedom to tweet self-authored messages. Advisers who have at least 15 followers are now allowed to create their own tweets… if they attend an online training course, and get each message approved before posting, which “could take several hours”.

It is a step forward, but can you imagine going to an event and every time that you wanted to start or participate in a conversation you had to stop and ask a chaperone to approve what you were about to say?

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 issues and regulatory requirements to manage, but professionals know what they can and cannot say publically, and technology can ensure that appropriate records are kept.

The speed and reach of social media can exacerbate fears, but I have yet to discover a concern that does not also apply to emails and calls. I had a recorded telephone line at Morgan Stanley. I knew that my email account was monitored. But I did not need to ask for permission before making a call or writing an email.

Social media is just another way to talk. As with telephone/fax and email before, you will need training if it is new to you. After that, if you’re trusted to attend and speak appropriately at real life cocktail parties, you should be trusted to do the same at the virtual one!

Best Practice: How to Manage Ownership of Social Media Contacts

As a financial services, legal services or other professional services business planning your social media strategy, you’ll want to think about who owns employees’ social media accounts and all their relationships.

In the services world your business is only as good as the people you employ and the skills they have. To showcase your business properly you’ll want to have all your employees on social media to display their expertise and amplify your message.

But you don’t want the connections they make to walk out the door if the employee leaves. (There have already been a few lawsuits about it.)

Here’s the answer – just as we all have a business email address and a personal email address, employees should have a business social media presence and (if they choose) a personal social media presence.

Media companies have been leading the way here. Take the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones for example. You can choose the formal @BBCRoryCJ, or the dog-enhanced @ruskin147.



Other media companies are taking the same approach. Here’s Channel 4’s Jon Snow.


Now the corporates are starting to follow suit in applying this best practice. Earlier this month Morgan Stanley Smith Barney launched 17,000 twitter accounts on the world– all suffixed with MSSB as a clear corporate branding.

Morgan Stanley Twitter

The Bottom Line: Business Best Practice

  1. Define a brand prefix or suffix that all your business social media accounts should have.
  2. Get accounts provisioned by internal operations staff and handed out to employees as part of the normal staff induction process
  3. Update your employee handbook (or social media policy if you have one) to make clear that company social media accounts, social media interactions and connections belong to the business not the employee.
  4. Then, if an employee leaves the company, they leave behind their company social media accounts, just like they leave behind their company email account.

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:



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:


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?!)


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”):


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



“… 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!

If You Really Must Have a Social Media Policy

I wrote a few weeks ago four reasons you don’t need a social media policy, but… if you really must do it, if your boss or in house lawyers are insisting… then you could do much worse than follow this example from ABC in Australia:

  • Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.
  • Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.
  • Do not imply ABC endorsement of your personal views.
  • Do not disclose confidential information obtained through work.

Just four simple guidelines.
That’s it.

If only the tweeting doctors had considered first of these points.

Four Reasons Your Company Doesn’t Need a Social Media Policy

imageTrust your staff and they’ll behave accordingly

In my experience, if you place your trust in people they will generally behave accordingly. As business owners we spend a lot of time and money hiring – searching for the best people we can find, and then putting them in a job with responsibilities. What message does it then give to them if you then say ‘sorry, Facebook is banned here’?

Instead of trying to manage people’s time, I prefer to manage the results and allow people to manage their own time accordingly.

Social media is just another way to communicate

Do you have a telephone policy? A fax policy? A restaurant conversations policy? Social media is simply one more way to communicate, and conversations can happen anywhere. The technology itself is neither good nor bad. Creating a policy for each technology is the wrong way to go about managing the risks.

More rules and regulation just put people off

In my opinion you should be encouraging your staff onto social media. It helps create a human face to your organisation, enables you to engage where your customers are congregating and empowers each employee to be a proud representative of your company. No employee wants to get into trouble and more rules will simply make employees hesitant to engage in the very behaviour you should want to encourage.

You probably already have all the rules you need

You probably have an employee handbook in place that has all the rules and regulations you could possibly need to define what is, and is not, appropriate behaviour. It’ll likely cover things like discriminatory behaviour, immoral and illegal activities, how to behave with customers and colleagues and how to handle confidential information. You can violate those regulations in person, on the phone, and yes, in social media.

Do you really need another policy for this particular technology?

What should you do instead?

So if you don’t have a social media policy, what should you do instead?

Well, as I have written before, no policy will be able to cover all aspects of a conversation. Instead you need values. Values enable employees to make smart decisions by themselves about how to engage.

Don’t Zappos values say everything staff need to know about how to engage with people on social media? Microsoft’s blog policy is famously two words: Blog Smart. It’s about empowering staff to make smart decisions based on company values.

Instead of creating a bunch of command and control rules that nobody reads, think about the values that embody your company and how you can use them to enable staff to make decisions by themselves, engage customers, and win new business.

What do you think? Any other ideas to add?