On the one hand, as suggested by the image above (and see these screenshots), Twitter is enriching what happens on a Twitter account page. Clicking on an arrow icon next to a tweet will expand the timeline to the right, providing detail about the tweet without sending the user off the page or causing him to lose his place on the timeline. That’s an improvement, especially for casual users of Twitter.
But, by widening the content area, these changes take over much of the background real estate that many have used to communicate. Specifically, disclosures that most asset manager Compliance officers have required will be obscured.
We haven't seen the effect of these changes yet because, while Twitter announced them last week, they’re being introduced over the next several weeks.
We’ve reached out to a few people this week asking what they’ve heard and whether there’s any possibility of requesting an exception. Sorry to say it, but most are stumped about what it could mean for tweeting asset managers. A quick check shows that nine Twitter accounts followed by our @RockTheBoatMKTG Twitter list of investment managers don't use their Twitter backgrounds for disclosure. But more than two-thirds of the accounts do.
We make a point of leaving Compliance guidance to the professionals. Still, it’s obvious that inability to disclose would trim the scope of what an asset manager could tweet about. This would be a backward step, especially for firms that had been considering broadening what they do on Twitter, including following others and tweeting about content on others' Web sites. Added disclosure would be required to enable these.
Blane Warrene of the social media archiving solution Arkovi suggested, “Perhaps firms will be able to link to a disclosure URL in the bio section, though that takes away from the elevator pitch everyone uses with that space. If the content on the right was expanded, that could resolve the issue by adding more characters for disclosure after the pitch.”
The "Inherent Conflicts Of Leveraging Consumer Tools"
“One thought that has come up in our discussions,” Warrene said, “is this one way Twitter can make money? Via selling the ability to customize the page for a business account? This is, of course, prognostication and assumption!”
If that speculation proves to be true, at least it would be a way of accommodating required disclosures. And yet such a scenario would seem unfair. Most Twitter accounts will continue to use Twitter, whether they exercise an option to pay for customization or not. In the case of asset managers and probably others, space for required disclosures could very well be a condition of using the site.
Is that snickering I hear? OK, granted, the customization fee would probably be affordable. We just hate to see asset managers subject to additional barriers that could keep them from taking part on Twitter. We love Twitter, as we've said before.
When we commented previously about the risks of relying on other domains, we didn't imagine that the Twitter background would be pulled out from under.
We agreed with Warrene this week when he said, “This certainly shows the intersection of consumer tools being leveraged for business purposes and the inherent conflicts."
What to do? We’ll let you know if we hear anything and would appreciate your doing the same, even if only via email.