Why Asset Managers Should Root For Twitter

Last week’s announcement that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo would be stepping down has triggered another round of commentary finding fault with Twitter and raising doubts about its viability.

Followers!

The charts below suggest one reason for mutual fund, exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms and other investment entities to root for Twitter’s health and prosperity.

This sampling represents the growth in followers of Twitter accounts belonging to firms of various sizes, focus and age over the last six months, as tracked by TwitterCounter.com.

I looked at the change in followers for every corporate account included on the Rock The Boat Marketing Investment Managers Twitter list—that's more than 100 entities. Just six firms have fewer followers mid-June 2015 than they had in mid-December 2014. The follower totals of a few firms, particularly those that tweet infrequently, have plateaued.

The majority of asset managers using Twitter show a rather dramatic net gain in followers. Granted, the absolute numbers may fall short of those following Twitter accounts of other brands in other industries. But, as I reviewed each account, it was the slope of the lines that I found stunning. Your email opt-in lists are not growing like this, are they?

 @PIMCO

@PIMCO

 pioneer investments' @pioneerinvest

pioneer investments' @pioneerinvest

 @Vanguard_FA

@Vanguard_FA

 @globalxfunds

@globalxfunds

They Like You Just The Way You Are

I can’t argue that Twitter has been the forum for rich conversation and interaction for investment companies. No, and maybe never.

But it’s been a platform where investment professionals, including product providers and product distributors, financial advisors and traders/investors have been able to come together—even if it’s just via a content delivery transaction—friction-free. No media necessarily needed to be created, requiring time and money, no space needed to be purchased, no user is interrupted. 

What you see is what you get in mutual fund and ETF provider tweets. Anyone who voluntarily clicks on Follow is subscribing to a stream of largely no-nonsense tweets about the economy, the markets and what the firm specifically has to offer. There's no smoke or mirrors used in the average garden-variety asset manager tweet.

Further, what's posted to Twitter sometimes is communicated on a more timely basis than is available anywhere else, including the firm’s own Website or from the firm’s own Sales teams. Bill Gross’ early use of the PIMCO account educated followers on this. (But, note that followers continue to flock to that account today post-Gross, as they do to the @JanusCapital account which Gross currently contributes to.)   

The mostly across-the-board growth in asset manager Twitter account followers—people who are saying Yes to this kind of content delivered this way—is such a positive sign, even allowing for fake or purchased followers in some of these numbers. 

Beyond that, I know individual firms that would tell you that participation on Twitter has had a beneficial effect on how they approach communicating. Twitter is a real-time channel, and effectiveness on Twitter requires a sharpening of interests and instincts. Work is elevated when communicators feel that they’re in the mix and relevant. Feedback in the form of clicks, retweets and favorites (and the absence thereof) is helping, too.

Watch #MICUS Next Week

a slide from the 2013 hashtag presentation

As it has for the last several years, the #MICUS Twitter hashtag supporting next week’s Morningstar Investment Conference will provide a handy illustration of how Twitter works for asset managers.

Savvy firms will use the hashtag as a means of connecting with a targeted audience of media, attendee financial advisors/investors, exhibitors and others watching the hashtag stream. (Two years ago, Morningstar’s Leslie Marshall created a presentation that quantified the reach of the 2013 hashtag.)

Onsite and offsite followers of the hashtag will want to make sure that they’re not missing anything at the large conference. And this presents an opportunity to share the focused attention, which is a piece of the Twitter value proposition unavailable to asset managers using any other platform.

As will be demonstrated, Twitter can bring engaged followers together. Artful construction of tweets that are relevant to hashtag-watchers can lead to further exploration of an account and even gain followers for it. At the same time, we’ll probably also see some blatantly promotional or context-deaf tweets that will be quickly scrolled past and forgotten—no new followers for those accounts that don’t respect the stream.

Change is ahead for Twitter, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow and the Chicago Blackhawks will be Stanley Cup contenders again next year (Have you heard they won this week? I thought I'd better update my concerned comment on last week's post).

Let's all hope that whatever is done to bolster's Twitter's profitability (and stock price, evidently) aids in maintaining the following and enhancing the connection that asset managers have been able to build so far.