No Product Tweets? We Agree With Compliance

It’s spring and some asset managers are busily planning their social media debuts. Lots of attention is being focused on developing policies and procedures, the communications (including listening) tools to be used, the troops to be prepped and the analytics to be put in place.

As much as we hate to heap on, we encourage you to give some serious thought to your content. Never buy something new for something old, my mother used to say.

What you say using social media channels and how you say it needs a whole new attitude.

This is abundantly clear on Twitter. We’re hearing that a few firms are getting tripped up on the tweets they want to send about their mutual funds. Risk disclosures, prospectus offerings and other language—there’s no way to wedge it all into the 140-character tweet format.

The FINRA guidance leaves lots of room for Compliance interpretation so you’ll see some fund companies tweeting about funds and others not. This week alone @Fidelity sent a tweet referring to its Fidelity Freedom Funds. But when Putnam Investments launched the first global equity fund of funds offering exposure to all sectors in the MSCI World Index on Monday, there was no mention of it on the @PutnamToday Twitter account (although the account has mentioned funds previously).

If you and your Compliance staff are facing off over fund mentions on Twitter, we’d like to respectfully suggest that you just let it go. Your firm has more to talk about—your market and economic insights, your process, your people.

When in 1999 the Cluetrain Manifesto articulated many of the beliefs that have influenced the development of social media, its first thesis was that markets are conversations. What’s important are the conversations, not the products. Transactions involving products and services will happen, but as a result of the conversations.

Can you begin to think of Twitter as a communications channel that pushes you to communicate in different, medium-appropriate ways that carefully, gingerly approximate conversation-starters? We’ve seen a few instances when a firm tweets about “New fund” and offers a link to their site. We get it (the fund can’t be named without triggering disclosure), but followers are likely to be bewildered. Much better all-around would be if you just start talking about what you know.

Here’s a table that we keep on the asset managers who are using Twitter. We cheer every one of them for the thinking they’ve put into creating a Twitter account and for the strategy underlying it.

If you study this table, you’ll see a dynamic that’s not typical of the garden variety Twitter account: Asset managers don’t necessarily need to follow others to gain followers or to be placed on Twitter lists. Pimco, the leader in this group, follows no one. People follow the account for its tweets, almost all of which are about Pimco insights. No Pimco tweets this year mentioned a Pimco fund.

There’s a lot about Twitter that’s different and for asset managers high-risk. What you can count on being the same on Twitter as in real life is the premium that’s placed on content. The reason that Bill Gross et al are pursued on other media is the same reason that Pimco’s Twitter account regularly gains followers.

Product marketing has a place but it’s not on Twitter (or anywhere else in social media). As your firm prepares its social media strategy and the benefits you expect to gain, be sure you’ve considered the value proposition of your Twitter account from the perspective of a follower, a customer or a prospect. What can you say that informs, elucidates, intrigues, even humanizes your firm? Keep that within 140 characters and we suspect that all, including Compliance, will be happy.