Twitter’s New Image Gallery: A Surprise…And Maybe An Opportunity?

One of the tricky things about participating in social networks is that you have no idea what the network is planning to do with your data next.

We’ve seen that with Facebook’s Beacon initiative which involved Facebook publishing third-party site activity (e.g., products and services bought on other sites) to members’ Facebook profiles, among other examples. And, LinkedIn got busted this summer when it included LinkedIn members’ names and photos in third-party ads, a practice since reversed.

In both of those instances, members were surprised by and not pleased with the social network over-reaching to drive additional revenue. It’s not quite the same as a change that’s been made on Twitter recently. But because Twitter is the social network of choice for asset managers (the @RockTheBoatMKTG list of investment managers tracks 48 accounts), I want to be sure that you know what’s changed.

Images Since January 2010

Previously, the tweeting of links to images using Twitter, TwitPic, yFrog, Instagram etc. was something that showed up in the stream and then moved through the stream. As such, the images shared on Twitter were one-offs. That changes now that Twitter has introduced image galleries. The galleries aggregate images that have been "uploaded in your tweets" into a page reachable via the Recent Images thumbnails now appearing on Twitter profile pages. The images can date as far back as January 2010.

So, what images have mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) Twitter accounts shared? The slideshow below shows the galleries of @AdvisorShares, @AmericanCentury, @BlackRockUSInvs, @iSharesETFs, @PutnamToday@Russell_News, @TC_Talks@USFunds and @Vanguard_Group Twitter accounts. Note: I uploaded screenshots of the grid view of the galleries into a Picasa Web album for easy display. If you go to each of the accounts and click on the images, you’ll see the copy that accompanied each image tweet.

Not Just Your Images

Twitter says, “If you copy and paste someone else's image (we call this a manual Retweet) into a tweet, the image will appear in your user gallery. The image will not appear in your user gallery if you use the Retweet button.”

Note this point well. Others have already complained about images showing up in their galleries that they did not originally tweet (see Search Engine Land's recommendations for improving the gallery.)

Theoretically, this might be a concern for asset managers but practically speaking, tweets and re-tweets are still getting a thorough once-over by most Compliance officers. Still.

I wonder how even Twitter's gallery implementation is. I believe that I’ve seen more images tweeted than are showing up in asset manager accounts' galleries. I know that I’ve tweeted more images than the four sad entries showing up in my own uninspired gallery.

Most of the images shared appear to be from events, with more trucks featured than one would expect. It's surprising to see not one chart or graph among asset managers' images. This may be an opportunity for you to consider going forward: To anticipate the gallery, for example, by tweeting not just links to a series of charts as the BlackRock Twitter account does with its "chart of the week" but the image itself.

You and your firm may have one of two reactions to this new Twitter feature. You might be spooked, especially if you’re unhappy with the images that are in your gallery. If you are, just go ahead and delete them—and chalk this up as another lesson in participating on a social platform you don’t control.

But images can add so much when communicating. I'll bet that you and your team can find a way to benefit from this new feature.