2 Big Lessons from Morgan Stanley's Social Media Investment

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1.  Tell Your Story in Social Media or Someone Else Will

Wall Street brokerage powerhouse, Morgan Stanley, made a bold investment decision:  within the year, all of its 17,800 financial advisors will be tweeting on Twitter and connecting on LinkedIn.  Bullish on Social Media, its head of U.S. sales, Andy Saperstein, proclaimed: 

MSSB is committed to continue leading our competition in innovation.  This will be a significant competitive advantage.

So where did Morgan Stanley break this bold announcement?  Well, ah, it didn't....That announcement came in an internal memo that was leaked to the press and whizzed through the corridors of social media until Morgan Stanley finally acknowledged that the memo was genuine.  Social media moves in real time.  Not having a presence in social media assures that you will be chasing the story rather than telling it.

2.  Just Because You're the Biggest, Doesn't Mean You'll Be the Best

Morgan Stanley, the world's largest brokerage firm, with over 60,000 employees, in 600 offices, in thirty-six countries around the world, has mind-boggling resources at its disposal.  What hope is there for medium-sized and small brokerage firms to compete in social media if such a giant is entering the arena?  There is great hope and opportunity for smaller financial firms to join the social media conversation and leap frog the giants.

Spam from 18,000 Brokers?

Glossed over by many reports touting Morgan Stanley's decision to invest in social media are the details of the announcement.  According to the internal annoucement memo, directed to an inaugural class of 600 of their most successful brokers who will be given the chance to begin using Twitter and LinkedIn by late June of this year, "You will have the ability, with a click of a button, to share pre-approved 'status updates' or 'tweets' with your social and professional networks."

Though the roll out will begin with 600 of its advisors in late June, it will include all of its nearly 18,000 financial advisor before year is out.  What will be the effect of 18,000 brokers tweeting the same "pre-approved" content?  Morgan Stanley could very quickly find its Twitter accounts suspended as Twitter has gotten much stricter about fighting spam and content farms.

Social media engagement that consists of scores of brokers sharing the same content from a library of pre-approved content is doomed to failure.  Smaller and medium sized firms that decide to follow Morgan Stanley's entrance into social networking, but with real commitment to human, real-time engagement, will quickly surpass Morgan Stanley in building a community and connecting with consumers.  Smart social media investors will manage their social media porfolio much more effectively if they follow not only the clear rules set by the financial industry's lead regulatory authority, FINRA, but the unwritten rules of effective social media participation:  it's about listening, learning, sharing and connecting -- not about spamming "pre-approved" content.

Smaller, independent brokerage houses that can move with greater agility and less bureaucracy, will have an even greater opportunity for social media success than larger firms that just don't understand the human component and real-time nature of social media.

The link to LinkedIn for the head of Morgan Stanley's U.S. sales, Andy Saperstein, who made the earth-shattering announcement about the firm beginning to use LinkedIn and Twitter, appears to be genuine as it is the only account bearing his name.  The effectively abandoned LinkedIn account,  with no connections, biography or photo, underscores the slow-moving nature of very large organizations even when they are making a seemingly bold, planned-out move.  It spells opportunity for the competition.

Your thoughts?  Will Morgan Stanley get it right?  Will smaller firms manage the investment better?  Will it be a good investment?

Please join me on Twitter!  @GlenGilmore

Related Reading:

Morgan Stanley to Tweet and Connect on LinkedIn

When Morgan Stanley Talks, People Listen
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