Sometimes when you’re a big ole brand producing high-quality communications containing data and insights of the intellectual capabilities of your quants and eggheads around the globe...well, there’s the tendency for the communications to have a certain finality to them. As in, what you have to say is the last word on the subject.
But the whole notion of having the last word is contrary to taking part in a conversation. Broad participation from everybody—global asset managers, financial advisors, the media, investors, Occupy Wall Street sympathizers—using social media platforms is what makes financial services discourse less predictable nowadays.
Online “conversations” start when someone/anyone publishes something and somebody else notices and weighs in.
How does a piece of content spread? Just last week, an excellent post listed the several “elements that can form the catalyst for viral exposure." High viral content, according to blogger Kelsey Libert, is:
- Original, authentic and brave
- Simple and concrete
- Remixable and easy to remix
- Validated from a few influential initial followers
- Highly visible and initially exposed to a community of similar users
- Speaks to the interests/values of the community it is shared within
The third element—remixable and easy to mix—was what gave me pause when I read the post. We don’t see a lot of remixing investment content.
But there was some remixing over the weekend. Thanks to Reformed Broker Josh Brown’s blogging about an “exchange that demonstrates the usefulness of a crowded and vibrant financial Twittersphere,” we have an instant case study.
It took place on Twitter, yes, and I agree with Brown’s points about the Twitter community. But there’s no reason to think that this couldn't happen with a blog post, a LinkedIn post or a YouTube video, assuming most of the elements are in place.
Check the case study against Libert's list of what's required for viral exposure.
A. Original, authentic and brave
J. Lyons Fund Management is an RIA with $10 million in AUM. It’s not unusual for the firm to comment on charts and data using its Twitter account @JLyonsFundMgmt (500 followers as of yesterday) and StockTwits account (almost 6,000 followers).
After the disappointing Q1 GDP (-2.96%) reported last week—the 17th worst in 50 years—the firm took a look at what happened to the economy after the earlier worst GDPs. A recession followed in every other instance, prompting the firm to wonder what would happen next.
25 Worst Quarterly U.S. GDP Prints In History (see if you can spot the outlier) pic.twitter.com/T9WQsOLA3Q— J. Lyons Fund Mgmt. (@JLyonsFundMgmt) June 28, 2014
B. Simple and concrete
J. Lyons could have published the data and insights on its blog, and tweeted a link to it. Instead, it uploaded the table itself. Smart. And, the inclusion of the last column was genius. Ordinarily, you don’t need a separate column if every entry in every row is going to be the same value (Yes). But that column, along with the copy in the tweet, stimulated the conversation.
C. Validated from a few influential initial followers
D. Highly visible and initially exposed to a community of similar users
E. Speaks to the interests/values of the community it is shared within
The tweet was published early Saturday morning, and Brown (whose 78,000 followers are both influential and concentrated in the investment community) helped it along. As of Monday evening, the tweet had 64 retweets and was favorited 45 times.
F. Remixable and easy to remix
The tweet had some loft from Saturday to Sunday. On Sunday afternoon the Twitter account @MarginalCapital directed its own tweet to J. Lyons and Brown. Brown says he’s never heard of MarginalCapital and the account bio offers no more than mystique.
MarginalCapital remixed the J. Lyons data—in other words, ran some of its own data and added a fifth column.
The conversation continued, taking a different turn. While the J. Lyons data seemed to point to a recession and the accompanying negative outcomes, Marginal Capital tweeted, “What happens next is that the S&P500 is up 79% of the time in the year after.”
(I should probably note that the original data wasn’t really easy to remix because Marginal Capital needed to recreate the table. Oh, and the copyright line was dropped.)
A general tweet followed the tweet directed to J. Lyons and Brown. As of Monday evening, this tweet had received 36 retweets and was favorited 39 times.
Here's the 1 year return of the S&P500 after the 25 worst GDP prints of all time pic.twitter.com/OUDSQuIWB9— marginal idea (@marginalidea) June 29, 2014
By the end of Monday, at least one more RIA tweeted yet another chart it had produced in response and the original chart had inspired at least one blog post. J. Lyons and Brown passed those tweets on to their respective followers, too.
Keeping The Faith
There are a few things about this episode that just tickle me.
It’s pretty awesome that an RIA could surprise the investment community with an original report.
“Even most professionals—myself included—were probably not aware of this particular point," Brown writes.
I love the fact that the original tweet surfaced first on a Saturday morning and the response happened on a Sunday. When investment types have something new to say, there is no waiting for the work week to begin. What’s also instructive is that there were people paying attention at those times, too.
To be sure, marketers of investment content are a step removed from all this. You need somebody else to do the analysis and crunch the numbers, the results of which no doubt needs to be reviewed and approved along with the communication about it.
Process can slow us down but it doesn’t need to break our spirits. Hopefully, you always do your part to make the case for content that means enough to somebody that they’ll share it, challenge it or remix it.
The last word? Who'd want it? No matter what its size, the firm that's willing to mix it up—including asking the community questions, taking in their input, doing their own validating—will be better off in the long term, I do believe.
Here’s to a safe and fireworks-filled Independence Day celebration with loved ones. I’ll be doing some IRL boat-rocking so please don't look for another post until the week of July 14.