Where LPL, Morgan Stanley Social Media Plans Diverge

Two Webinars scheduled at the very same time Wednesday afternoon showcased the differences between the approach to social media being taken by one of the largest wirehouse firms and the largest independent broker-dealer. These update some of the differences aired in July when LinkedIn hosted a social media discussion with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and independent certified financial planner Cathy Curtis.

I make a point of catching as many of these, in real-time or on-demand, as possible. May I say how refreshing it is to see Marketing replacing Compliance as presenters? But at this point, I’m just listening for what’s new to me.

If you’re a marketer whose mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) firm aims to support the needs of wirehouse and independent advisors as they strive to be increasingly social, I recommend that you listen to both presentations in their entirety. Just a few observations follow.


LPL Financial is bullish on social media as a “powerful means to research, frame and validate a range of choices for many of life’s most important decisions,” according to a slide presented by Marissa Fox-Foley during the AdvisorOne Webinar “Social Media for Advisors: Engaging and Growing Your Business.” Fox-Foley is LPL's senior vice president of advisor marketing.

Social media, she said, “is truly a critical media that should not be ignored by financial advisors.”

Asked for business results in the Q&A that followed, Fox provided an example of a Washington, D.C., advisor who won a new client with a $3 million portfolio. The investor became acquainted with the firm by following the advisor for eight months on Facebook, she said.

Content And Approval Differences

In large part, the social media plans of LPL and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney have similar stated objectives for their advisors’ social media participation—to listen, to learn, to create awareness and to engage. The salient difference is in the content to be employed and the approvals required.

Here’s how LPL’s Fox coaches advisors: “Your content shouldn’t just be ordinary, it shouldn’t be run of the mill. It should be remarkable. Keep it interesting. Be opinionated, show your opinion.”

LPL believes that social media participation should be part of an integrated marketing plan, part of an advisory marketing budget representing 5%-7% of revenue. According to a report published last month based on Foley-Fox comments made at LPL's national conference, advisors are required to complete a mandatory 20-minute training module and pay for the expense of social media archiving with Erado.

All of LPL's 12,000 advisors are eligible to participate. As of August, 1,753 LinkedIn, 488 Facebook and 198 Twitter accounts had been approved. Other accounts including Google+ were not allowed.

For a more complete report on the Webinar, see Financial Planning'sMaking The Case For Financial Advisors To Embrace Social Media.

Progress Report

While the LPL Webinar was more of a social media tutorial directed toward advisors (and included comments from Erado Message Control Solutions CEO Craig Brauff and Wired Advisor Founder and CEO Stephanie Sammons), the FierceLive! "The Future of Wealth Management: Social Media" Webinar was a progress report.

Since the July announcement of Morgan Stanley’s social media plan and approach, the firm’s Director of Content and Social Media Lauren Boyman has been the point person for a strategy that has stirred some controversy. At issue: how authentic can participation in social media be if the tweets are written by Corporate?

By now Boyman must be weary from explaining why advisors are limited to using pre-approved tweets made available via a MSSB content library. It's because the firm has decided to consider everything static content—hence requiring pre-approval per FINRA guidance. “I know it’s not ideal right now,” she said.

But Boyman said something surprising, especially given my observation of independent advisors followed by AdvisorTweets. “Most firms are finding that their financial advisors aren’t tweeting their own content even when given the option,” according to Boyman. She said the MSSB thought leadership being tweeted (along with wealth management and lifestyle topics) is a competitive advantage that the firm and advisors consider differentiating. On LinkedIn, she noted, Morgan Stanley does allow original content.


The firm’s pilot program involves 600 advisors using Twitter and LinkedIn. The rest of the 18,000-member advisor sales force are expected to be cleared to participate early next year.

Below are some recent tweets that show multiple Morgan Stanley advisors tweeting the same content.

<a href="http://storify.com/rocktheboatmktg/test-1" taget="_blank">View the story "The Impact of Identical Tweets?" on Storify</a>]

I have to say that I don't know about this direction. In my view it's comparable to GaggleAMP, a service that in the last few months has emerged as a means of mobilizing corporate or otherwise affiliated stakeholders to send prepared tweets. This is what’s called "enterprise social media amplification."

Whose message is being amplified? That's where the Morgan Stanley and LPL social media plans diverge. Time will tell which—individual advisors using social media to build personal brands or advisors' amplifying of a national brand's messaging—will be more effective and whether investors prefer one direction or the other.

The FierceLive! Webinar featured a few other success stories as told by Socialware CEO Chad Bockius. Most interesting to me was the Q&A discussion on what Morgan Stanley hoped to learn as a result of its participation on social networks.

“Hot prospects” will be fed to advisors, Bockius said, but he also described how the Socialware solution was enabling engagement analytics data to be rolled up and shared with the firm. The topics consumers are engaging with, the differences between the social networks and how messaging affects engagement all is data being captured, analyzed and shared. The objective of the analysis is to more precisely understand what content on which networks drive engagement and ultimately business, Bockius said.

The Webinar also included a 10-minute presentation by Jason McDermott, vice president, financial services for CRM provider Nexj Systems Inc.

For more, see Registered Rep’s coverage of the Webinar Momentum Building for Social Media Adoption in Financial Services.