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!
I understand such a big corporation needs to put in place those policies. However, I don’t see why the same non-disclousure policies that apply to attending a pub, the gym, or your community centre (and what you say there) still would do so with social media. Besides, you’re using social media as a working tool.
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