July 3

Morgan Stanley joins the virtual cocktail party… with chaperones

Banking, Blog, Opinion


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!

About the author 

Linda Cheung

Advising innovative companies on marketing and growth strategies. Founder at CubeSocial, Advisor at Oxford Innovation, Board member at Enterprise M3, Mentor at SETsquared.

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  1. The cocktail party analogy doesn’t seem to work as well anymore. It’s confined to a small group of people, and bits may get out of someone sends a text, or a tweet, but that info is then speculation. If a rep from Morgan Stanley sends something publicly, it has potential to move markets and necessarily in a good way. As the photo of Steven Spielberg posing in front of a triceratops demonstrates, ppl don’t stop to think, they just react. In that regard, I understand the need for approval. There’s a business opportunity there. Companies like Narrative Science are automating sports articles. Good bet there is a way to automate social media content approval, too.

    This also raises the question: can you train ppl to use common sense?

    1. Apologies if I have misunderstood your opening comments. I often think of Twitter as a virtual cocktail party, where you can find contacts and conversations of interest. The etiquette of Twitter is such that you can join any conversation uninvited. As long as what you have to say is on topic, you’re usually welcomed in, regardless of whether or not you knew the other individuals in the conversation before.

      Steven Spielberg – the Triceratops hunter that never was! As Jay Branscombe later wrote on a status update: “Stupid people are too stupid to realise when less-stupid people are pretending to be stupid”. It would to incredibly difficult to create training, process or policy around stupidity…

      Yes, some people did just react to the Steven Spielberg photo. But professional advisers are trained to stop to think. They know that their conduct has to be comply with regulatory guidelines. Does the need for approval suggest that Morgan Stanley staff are stupid? As a former employee, I hope not!

      1. *edited to fix weird spacing*

        One can argue training, process and policy are created around stupidity. Laws, too, for that matter.

        Contacts and conversations of interest…I’d agree with that. I read the “cocktail party” analogy as being confined to a small space, an intimate gathering as opposed to a conference where publicity is expected and perhaps has people wanting to trade based on info shared.

        I found it amusing that ppl kept sharing the Triceratops photo, adding snarky comments and then someone would get really offended and state never to see another Spielberg movie again. It’s kind of an illustration of how much more informed, wrongly or otherwise, the world is today than it was back when JP was filmed, or released.

        I’d wager the need for approval is more a legal dept thing than MP staff being stupid. Ppl entrust MP with a lot of money! I think there’s a great deal of insight to be had from MP staff tweeting, or otherwise sharing on social media. Corporations conduct a ton of research, but publish internally, for obvious reasons, but some of that can be shared publicly, too, and who knows? Create other markets for MP, make it a first-mover elsewhere.

        Kind of reminds me of the Facebook emotion study. I don’t think the study itself is surprising, but the fact that it was published in a journal is surprising.

        Still think there’s a market opportunity to automate approval. Linguistic analytics matched against policy, etc. Bet that’d be useful outside large corps, too. Unless it already exists…

        1. Legal/Compliance/Regulatory departments will no doubt be involved. Your comments remind me of my thoughts on disclaimers: http://bit.ly/uNrXzN and how and why lawyers use Twitter: http://bit.ly/RgmeKP

          Yes, much research and business intelligence is kept in-house, but there is also plenty that is shared – as thought-leadership, to demonstrate expertise, credibility, etc. As for first-mover advantage, arbitrage opportunities are often found on the boundaries of regulation in financial services, and can result in significant profit margins and market share… while I would love to see Morgan Stanley take less time in-between each step, I’m pleased that they were one of the first to make the jump!

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