Putnam Social Media Strategy Rooted In Content Syndication

Lots of interesting insights were shared in a "Social Media: Can You Afford to Miss It?" BrightTALK Webcast this morning featuring Mark McKenna, Marketing Director of Communications for Putnam Investments, and Lee S. Kowarski, kasina Principal. We encourage you to sit through it all when the replay is available, promised within 48 hours.

Below are some of the notes we took and a few observations.

McKenna credits Putnam CEO Robert L. Reynolds for being the social media “evangelist” who asked his staff to explore the possibilities. The strategy that resulted seeks to distribute Putnam content across multiple platforms away from what McKenna calls Putnam’s “dotcom site.” The social platforms include SlideShare, Scribd, Facebook, Twitter and WordPress blogs. (These links go to Putnam’s content to make it easier for you to check them out.)

Putnam believes in making content available to where people want to consume it, McKenna said. (For an elaboration on why this makes great sense, see our related post.) And it is to Putnam’s advantage because, as stated in the slide below, the goal is to “Identify influencers (bloggers, pundits, etc.) in our market and engage them with exclusive content and cross-posting.” 

All content prepared for distribution is routed and reviewed as advertising, according to FINRA regulations, and filed within 10 days.

In the recent focus on FINRA’s guidance on social networking sites, I’ve worried that we all have lost sight of the range of possibilities of social media. Social networking implies interaction and introduces several issues that pose challenges to how asset management companies communicate. But content syndication (not dependent upon interaction) represents the bulk of Putnam’s social media work to date, and that’s a less perilous path that others could more easily follow now if just as a prelude to the full-on information exchanging and engaging that goes on in other, unregulated industries.

The strategy does create attention. “We see four times as much traffic [from social media efforts] as we do from traditional media,” McKenna said at one point.

It’s also clear from McKenna’s comments that Putnam is analyzing the interest being shown in the content and trying to the extent possible to associate content interest with names of financial advisors. After a recent Barron's Webcast, for example, McKenna said advisor traffic and engagement with the Putnam site was tracked based on email addresses.

Putnam is one of a handful of asset management firms with more than a "cursory" social media presence, Kowarski said. According to kasina research conducted in January 2010, fewer than 20% of asset management firms intend to develop a social presence in the next 12 months. 

"There's way too much talking with no experimenting," Kowarski said. "Go out there...force yourself to follow some people." Amen, brother!

About 50 minutes into the Webcast and immediately after Kowarski argued that strategy should be developed before tactics are adopted, the BrightTALK moderator presented several slides about online events. Hang in there through it because a valuable Q&A session follows.

On Friday, May 7, Pat will be moderating a "Connecting Today: How Asset Managers Are Using Social Media and Why" session at ICI's 2010 Operations and Technology Conference. Vanguard, Northern Trust and Stradley, Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP will be the panelists.