“Whatever you do, don’t tweet anything.”
That was how every conversation with a loved one ended for me last week. I was cooped up, battling the flu/cold/creeping crud that others have been succumbing to (well, just short of dying).
The Tamiflu lady is a reasonable facsimile of what was going on in my house. I had a fever, which for me has the strange effect of making everything I come in contact with seem profound and good. It used to be that when I had to stay home sick, I’d watch a movie and proclaim it the finest film ever made. Last week, bouncing between my smartphone and iPad, I couldn’t stop bookmarking content. Everything was coming together as if by design…I was seeing patterns I hadn’t seen before…my handlers were right to counsel me not to post.
Except: That DST acquisition of kasina really happened, didn’t it? That combination is intriguing and could be truly powerful for the asset management industry. Congratulations all around.
What follows is the post I thought I’d publish last week but held off until a cooler head prevailed.
What do we really know about the retweeting of mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) content?
According to Cerulli Associates’ data quoted here, as much as three-quarters of U.S. asset managers have seized on Twitter as a means of extending the reach of their thought leadership and market insights.
An expectation unique to social platform participation is that others, fellow users, will see value in your content and share it with their own networks. This sharing expectation is at the center of discussions about the length of the tweet, the voice used, and word, hashtag, image and soon video selection.
We set the table and we wait. We wait for the retweet, that affirmation that what’s been posted has been noticed and deemed "shareworthy." A retweet, even for the handful of asset managers swimming in retweets, never gets old.
If you’re paying attention, you know who your own firm’s Twitter account loyalists are.
But here’s what I’ve been wondering: What would we learn if we looked at all retweeting of all investment management tweets over time? Would analysis reveal a community of investment tweet fanboys and fangirls? Would it—deep breath here—surface a list of the financial advisors who make up the most enthusiastic group of retweeters?
Short answer: No, not according to my modest research project.
First, Some Qualifications
First, we need to scale back what could be done. A look at all retweeting of asset manager tweets over all time isn’t possible, given Twitter’s limits on its API.
However, I was able to use the enterprise edition of retweetrank.com to download “recent” (see below for an explanation) retweeting of 10 of the most followed asset manager accounts (BlackRock, Franklin Templeton, Invesco US, iShares, JP Morgan Funds, OppenheimerFunds, PIMCO, Vanguard_Group, Vanguard_FA and WisdomTree ETFs.) This is the majority of all retweeting, I'm confident.
My analysis included whatever retweeting data that retweetrank could provide—more than 7,200 tweets in all, but over varying time periods. For example, the data for PIMCO went back to February of 2014 but to just December 2014 for JP Morgan Funds. The available data covers the third and fourth quarters of 2014 for most of the firms.
I combined all the data and then looked for accounts that retweeted the tweets from at least two firms. Most accounts tweeted three or more firms.
The result is this list of the top 20 asset management retweeters as of the start of 2015.
This is a public Google spreadsheet.
Reality Sets In Re: Retweeting
Notwithstanding all the qualifications to this compilation, here are some of my takeaways. If you have more, please comment below.
- Retweeting today is a long tail proposition. While Twitter accounts belonging to individuals may indeed get their retweeting support from a cluster of supporters, it’s more a case of onesies and twosies for asset manager brand accounts. Which makes the high retweeting counts of a few firms (BlackRock and Invesco US) that much more impressive.
- Financial advisors are not the predominant retweeters of asset manager tweets. There are exactly two advisor accounts on this list, one belongs to a Morgan Stanley advisor and the other to an investment advisor representative.
To pursue this some, I then also aggregated and analyzed the retweeting being done of Twitter accounts belonging to financial advisor media: Advisor Perspectives, ThinkAdvisor, Investment News, Morningstar Advisor and RIABiz. But no, advisors aren’t leading the retweeting across those accounts either.
Hmm. We know that advisors think of Twitter as a means of “cascading” thought leadership, which on the face of it implies retweeting. This was documented as recently as in the Putnam Social Media survey released in December.
However, Twitter is not advisors' most prominent social network. Not every advisor who uses Twitter is permitted by his or her firm to retweet. And, one in five advisors say they use Twitter passively.
It was just the middle of last year when the announcement came that Morgan Stanley would begin to allow 1,300 of its 16,000 advisors to begin to write their own tweets. Time will tell whether additional permissions and retweeting interest by more participating advisors across the board will play a greater role in the circulation of more investment management content.
- The retweeting is not coming from massively followed accounts (and definitely not the financial media Twitter accounts that asset managers seem to themselves like to retweet). Retweeting by lightly followed accounts limits the explicit value of the additional reach provided by the retweet. Remember, though, that every retweet helps in some way, even if only to prop up overall numbers.
- The list of top retweeters includes more bot accounts—accounts with sketchy profile information or lacking URLs that go to bona fide companies—than I would have hoped. It’s anybody’s guess who’s behind these accounts but let’s not jump to the conclusion that this is a bad thing. Using a dummy account for monitoring Twitter is common, accepted practice. It makes sense that bots (which you can set and forget) are prevalent. Obviously, though, “engaging” a bot is out of the question.
- #1 on the list is a Twitter account that retweeted 45 investment management tweets. It belongs to Dean T. Carson II, C.P.A., not a bot. However, it must be automated, given its average 133 daily tweets.
- The list includes an employee of J.P. Morgan Office of Inspector General in Russia, who tweeted other firms’ content as well as J.P. Morgan Funds'. We may see more of this as firms begin to authorize their employees to use Twitter, to amplify their own content but others' relevant content, too.
- Based on the number of non-U.S. retweeting accounts, Twitter is indeed extending the geographic reach of asset manager content.
After all other considerations are exhausted, any discussion about “who’s retweeting our content and how can we get more of it?” eventually works its way ‘round to the quality of the content being posted. While you can’t control most of what drives retweeting, there’s always room to improve the appeal of what you post—here’s to your work on that in 2015!