Twitter: Hey Morgan Stanley, You're Doing it Wrong

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney financial advisors are taking to Twitter in order to meet their audience where they are, which is great news.

Unfortunately, so far, the tweets seem pretty scripted, like this one, for example:

It shows up on several different MSSB advisors' twitter feeds, but the advisors aren't retweeting each other or talking to each other about the issue - they are just all delivering the same tweet.

Now, I'm all for companies being responsible about social media and making sure that they're in charge of the message - after all, Morgan Stanley's going to look bad if its employees are drunk-tweeting at 3:00am from Tijuana.

That said, it seems like they could benefit from a little flexibility. Maybe they want to provide the content and the link, and let the advisors come up with their own tweets?

Some of the tweets seem a little too cheerleaderish, too, like this one:

I'm glad that MSSB has a strong diversity initiative, but this kind of "I'm proud...Way to go" tweet belongs on an official corporate feed. This is more a question of style than substance. What if the tweet said something like this?

  • Off to #MSSB HQ for #diversity committee work. So glad to be part of this initiative!

The tone is a little more casual, and the emotion is more genuine and personal. The more informal style also invites readers to respond. Folks might want to ask Ms. DeBellis what the committee is up to and how it operates, which is exactly what we want to happen on Twitter.

I also noticed this tweet, and some other tweets that were similar:

Again, the tone here is just too formal. This sounds scary! The whole point of Morgan Stanley being on Twitter is to make personal financial management more accessible. Mr. Ledyard could have tweeted something like this:

  • Are you a trustee for a foundation or endowment? There are some guidelines you should understand. Let me know if you have questions.  

The more informal tone makes Ledyard more approachable, so people are more likely to tweet or message him if they want to know more.

So what's your takeaway here?

  • Make your Twitter style less formal than your press releases, whitepapers, and annual reports.
  • Share emotions - what are you excited about today?
  • Twitter is a place to talk to other people; keep that in mind when you write your tweets.
  • If you have several feeds to represent one brand, make sure feed owners are able to customize their tweets to their own voices so you're not repeating the same tweet many times.
  • Make sure your Tweeps are actually tweeting. Some of MSSB's feeds haven't been used in weeks.

What do you think of Morgan Stanley's approach? What keeps you from being more active on Twitter? Please share in the comments.

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What Time Should You Tweet?

Recently, a colleague of mine asked me for my thoughts on the timing of social media posts. She has some clients that are just getting started on Facebook and Twitter, and they wanted advice on when to post.

The only rules about timing your social media posts are that there really aren't any rules. Every audience is different and each social network is different.

Use testing to figure out when to post to your social networks.
Photo: Flickr user Katerha.
I recommended she help her clients set up a tool like HootSuite so that they could schedule posts ahead of time, and then see engagement stats for posts sent at different times - morning, afternoon, evening, nights, and weekends.

One of her clients is a school, and they may find that many parents are checking for school news late in the evening - making sure they know the schedule for the next day before bed, or just taking advantage of the hours after their children are asleep. In the case of inclement weather, they'll be up early to find out if classes are cancelled.

I always recommend that organizations test posting on the weekend to see how it does. Lots of people do tend to spend time on social networks on Saturday mornings, while they are at the kids' soccer practice or just relaxing at home.

As a general rule, Twitter seems to be active later in the day, but what's really important is what the best time is for your audience - no one formula works for every organization.

Again, the best thing to do is test - try tweeting or posting on Facebook with similar content at different times of day and see what happens. The most important thing you can do is to keep testing - what times, and how often to post.

One of the best webinars I've seen on timing is from Hubspot, and it's called The Science of Timing. It's a couple of years old, but I find that it's still pretty relevant.

What time do you post and what times of day do you find work best for you? Please share.

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Listen To Your Customers, Stay in Business

If you've been reading the news this week, you've probably noticed that in light of terrible sales, JC Penney's new CEO resigned after his idea to simplify pricing and remove coupons from JC Penney's pricing structure backfired (more here).

The Internet is chock-full of lessons-learned articles, and the lesson that stands out most to me is "Know Your Customers, and Give Them What They Want." These folks are on to something.

Listening is important. Photo: John Morton.
OK, you say.

I won't be like JC Penney. I'll know my customers and give them what they want.


The best way to tackle this problem is the direct way - by asking them.

Here are a few things you can try:

1) Ask questions on Facebook - open ended or you can use Facebook's questions functionality to do a multiple choice question. Facebook is a two-way street - you can post your content, but you can also use it to gather new content from your fans.

2) Ask questions on your other social channels, too - are you on Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+? Use those platforms to say "What do you think of this?" or "What do you want to see next?"

3) Survey your customers on email. Ask them how they'd like to hear from you, how often, and what about. Ask them what would make their customer service dreams come true.

4) Script some questions for your call center to ask. Are there common reasons that people call that could be resolved another way to everyone's satisfaction? Is there a product they wish you sold? Why do they shop with you and not the competition?

5) If you don't have product reviews on your web site, add them. They can be critical to helping your customers decide to buy, and to setting expectations appropriately. Also, when customers help each other, they build community and return to your site more. Reviews also make great content for, you guessed it, Facebook.


1) Listen!

2) Listen some more!


Collect all this feedback and look for themes. You'll probably be able to find several common things that customers think you can do better, and lots of things they like that you should continue doing. Implement this feedback where it makes sense, and you'll be on the way to happier, more profitable customers who appreciate that you took the time to get to know them and what they want.

What are you doing to make your customers' dreams come true? Please share.

Need help getting to know your customers and what they want? Let me know. I can help.

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How to See the Opportunity in Your Own Email Files

A lot of non-profits (and businesses, too) that I work with have a similar problem - email lists all over the place, in different formats, with different permissions. If this sounds like you, it's critical to your future success that you do something about this ASAP. Why?

Clean Up Your Email Lists and See Better Results.
Lists. From Flickr user James West.
Your best source of new subscribers for your different email campaigns is sitting right in front of you. Think about:

1) Cross-promotion! Once you have your list all in one place and de-duped, you'll have remarkable opportunities to cross-promote your various initiatives. The people on your different lists already like your brand and are more likely to respond than people who haven't ever subscribed.

2) Re-activation! People who subscribed to a campaign you ran a couple of years ago are far more likely to be interested in your current activities than people who've never subscribed before. Here's your chance to reactivate them and opt them in to a more general list.

3) Information! Find out who your most active subscribers are. Don't you want to know how many people are subscribed to multiple lists, and to which ones? If you see that there are some common trends, it might be time to further consolidate your messaging strategy. You'll also find that some of your buyers from one list are prospects on another list. Shouldn't you be giving them loyal customer love whenever you talk to them? (Yes.)

These things are really, really important, which is why I've given them three big exclamation points.

Mine your own email list now, before you go out there and pay a whole bunch of money to get new subscribers. Once you're all set, THEN, you go get some more new subscribers.

How? Ask your shiny, buffed, nicely ordered list to recruit a few friends. The best businesses often  comes from referrals. You'll be able to do this in a targeted way, now that you better understand your customers' behavior.

How's your email program going and what do you wish was different? Do you need help consolidating lists? I've done it before, and I'll do it again (just let me find my spurs). Drop me a line and I'll be glad to help.

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Customize Your Message for Each Channel

This week, I want to share a story with you about message customization.

I once worked with a client on an advocacy effort to improve local public safety. Because they'd been told to try more online messaging, they were using Twitter to try and reach all of their messaging goals. Not unexpectedly, it wasn't quite working.

Use multiple channels to get your message out.
Lots of ways to get the message out. Photo: Kevin Poh.
I encouraged them to think of the overall campaign, and all groups they wanted to reach - local government officials were the primary targets, but they also wanted to move petition-signers, public safety workers, crime victims, and local media.

We discussed the best channel for outreach to each group, based on the makeup of the group and the action we needed them to take. We found that most of the local officials we needed weren't active on Twitter, but we knew they were reading the local paper, and that journalists from the local paper were on Twitter, so we tweeted at targeted members of the media instead, in conjunction with some more traditional media outreach.

We also used Twitter to listen to local discussions of crime and public safety, and inserted ourselves into that dialogue.

When it was time to reach out directly to the officials, who had seen our news stories thanks to our media outreach, we found it was actually more effective to use a combination of more traditional channels to get the officials to act. They were more receptive to our emails and phone calls because they had seen the news stories we'd been able to get.

Facebook, we found, was a great place to reach our petition-signers and also to collect victim stories. These victim stories and petition activities then became online content, that we used in our continued email outreach.

Your takeaway?

Consider your overall goals and align the channels you use to those goals. Not every channel can address every goal. Don't discount traditional channels because they're not new. It can take a combination of messages to get the results you want.

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How to Use Twitter for Listening

In my social media travels, I've run into a lot of people who've given up on Twitter. Maybe they don't have time to write a lot of tweets, or they don't have many fans, or they just aren't sure the channel works for them.

Twitter is a great tool for listening to conversations
Twitter is great for listening. Photo: s1ng0
This tends to be especially true for some smaller non-profits. Budgets are small, staff is small, and there's just not a lot of time to devote to anything that's not achieving immediate results.

I tell these kinds of organizations that they are missing out on a huge opportunity to listen. Twitter is an excellent tool for listening, and for connecting to and influencing larger dialogue.

I advise these clients to use Twitter to follow others who do what they do, and to follow the discussion about the issues their organizations address.

For instance, the director a non-profit health clinic might use Twitter to follow other clinic directors and to monitor discussion of #Medicare, #ACA (the Affordable Care Act), #antibiotics, or #healthcare. This is a great way to locate current news and thoughts about these issues, and to contribute to a discussion involving people who are passionate and motivated to act.

Twitter's also a great way for busy professionals, like our non-profit health clinic director, to stay connected to others in her industry even though she can't get out to networking events or conferences as often as she'd like. Using Twitter, she can connect to others in her field and reach out for advice, input, and ideas.

Our clinic director can set up a HootSuite account in a few minutes, and follow those keywords that make sense to her. She'll be able to set up streams for her keywords so she can see them right in HootSuite, track discussions, and schedule replies.

How are you using Twitter? Please let me know @practicalmktr.

Do You Need More Than One Twitter Account?

While many organizations wonder if they are ever going to have enough time to manage the social media channels they have now, there are some people out there wondering if they need to start another Twitter feed. There are actually some good reasons for doing this in certain cases, so let's review:

1) Is your brand big enough to have a lot of sub-brands- like Coke (Diet Coke, Sprite, Snapple, etc.)? You should consider a feed for each of your large projects or product lines.

2) Do you have really disparate areas of work? If you make baby blankets and industrial welding equipment, then you're going to need two feeds for your two different audiences.

3) Do you have disparate audiences for the same lines of work? If your work appeals to college students and CEOs for different reasons, you might want to tailor feeds for each group.

4) Do you spend a lot of time on Twitter keeping in touch with friends? Are you on it while you're out on the town on Saturday night, maybe after you've had a couple of beers? Are you known as a 3:00am tweeter?  Set up a new Twitter account for your professional life, and make your current feed private and accessible only to approved followers. Really, you'll thank me later.

So how do you manage this?

There are several apps out there for social media management. The free one I'm most familiar with is HootSuite - it's easy to use and the free functionality does what you need it to. Additional reports and users are relatively low cost.

How do you manage your social (media) life? Drop me a line and let me know.

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