In a word, progress.
Morgan Stanley recently announced that their advisors have been permitted to tweet, an activity previously restricted by the company. In the past, advisers had to choose from an approved ‘tweet library’ if they wanted to share any sort of update through their Twitter accounts.
As you can imagine, the notion of using template tweets gets old fast. But what’s of paramount concern to organizations that dole out advice in 140 characters or less, especially about topics such as finance and health is factual accuracy and how their tweets affects their overall reputation.
Whenever you grant newfound freedom to people within the organization, you relinquish control of communication. Having worked within the Communications department of many organizations, I can tell you: that is never our goal.
So what are the biggest concerns with giving access to a potential 16,000 advisors?
1) Advisors are human. Humans make errors.
By far, the biggest concern with the approach taken by Morgan Stanley is that every single advisor has the ability to make a human error. Whether they could give wrong advice in a very public manner, or tweet something from their corporate account that was meant for their personal one, errors happen to all of us. It’s just a matter of how grave they are when they occur.
2) It’s counterintuitive to social media
At its core, social media is immediate in nature. Social media is spurred by social chatter (duh). This means having real-time conversations, and these conversations cannot resemble the correspondence you’ve had with your long-lost pen pal from Yugoslavia (because when you last from her, that was still a place). The process for approving tweets at Morgan Stanley prioritizes accuracy, but it is inherently broken. For example, if an advisor wants to write a personalized tweet, they have to write it and send it to a team internally for an approval process that could take ‘up to several hours’. This completely distorts the usefulness of the platform, making it less timely than say, telephone service as a result. So why exactly would we use it, if it was not immediate in nature?
3) Restrictions for the sake of restricting
Morgan Stanley needed to formalize the process for ‘approved tweeters’ so this is what they did. To tweet, advisors must attend an online training course, have at least 15 followers, and get each message preapproved by the firm before posting. It’s slow and somewhat misleading. What does a 15-follower threshold accomplish? In terms of reach, it’s virtually the same as a new account. In a direct @ conversation with a client, it’s moot. The only people who could even see that conversation organically are people who follow both parties (highly unlikely when you only have 15 followers). The training however, can be beneficial to these advisors. It may not fully acquaint them with the Twitterverse, but it can lay out some examples of how interactions should be framed, and escalation processes for when (not if) something goes wrong.
All in all, I’m being extremely critical of a financial industry that has been slow to embrace social media across the board, but this does represent a step in the right direction. In a word, progress. According to the Wall Street Journal, Merrill Lynch doesn’t yet let its advisors tweet or use Facebook, and Wells Fargo only allows a few of its brokers to post on Twitter.
Still, there has to be a distinction between using the platform and using it correctly. I imagine until the early adopters (can we really call them that?) demonstrate sales results, the pace will continue to be glacial amongst resistant industries.