Guide to Social Media, Wall Street Edition

Yesterday when we left off, I was interviewed for an article in the NY Times where Fay DeBellis of Morgan Stanley was being highlighted as a pioneer among Morgan Stanley’s effort to be more “social”. I said picking from a select library of compliance-approved tweets was soulless & socially retarded. I’m not sure if LOL or ROTFLMAO are in their library. Women fainted, children cried.

So, here it is: Part 2:


Wall Street’s Guide to Social Media In Six Simple Steps

1. Social media is about sharing real things with real people. I’m not claiming to have mastered social media, frankly I’m pretty retarded, if for no other reason than I’m the type of person who uses the word retarded — but I am real — and that’s why people follow me. But if you want to see the difference between someone who is a master of social media (and real) vs. this Bulge Bracket BS that is Wall Street’s attempt at being “social” let me show you exhibit A:

Who would you rather follow?

2. Social Media is about Trust. When I see an interesting tweet from someone I trust (or looks trustworthy to me somehow from their snazzy headshot), I click on it — trusting it’s not spam, trusting it’s going to challenge my perception, or make me laugh, or inform me about something I’m interested in & didn’t know. Basically, I trust that this person is not going to waste my time.

As it is, trust is always initially based on faith, reinforced by actions, and eventually solidified by learning about our shared values. That last part is the single most important. And here’s what I want you to do… go up to your Wall Street broker & ask them this simple question… What are your firm’s values? Then ask the person in the mailroom. Then the branch manager. None of them will be able to answer you. And if they can, it won’t be with a straight face because let’s face it, for most of the suits working on the street, the shared value inside of these companies is one thing:

“People come and work at this firm for one reason: to become filthy rich. That’s it. We’re not here to make friends. We’re not savin’ the fuckin’ manatees here, guys…”

And when a company gets as big as Morgan or Merrill or Goldman and that ‘one reason’ is really the only reason everyone is there–  when money is the object of desire — no one can really can trust anyone, not even on the inside… Because there a 1,000 Greg Smiths ready to spill the beans for a book deal, if that’s the best play for more money (and if they can pull it off).

Trust me… almost everyone in that neighborhood brokerage office of yours would cut their best “work friend’s” throat in a New York minute if it meant more for them. It’s the culture of money. If you’ve ever been in a brokerage firm office on a Friday, you know what I’m talking about. So, until that cultural value-less disconnect is reconciled & the ‘trust’ account is somehow replenished — you can count on more bland, soulless tweets from any of these big firms who don’t really deserve anyone’s trust anymore.

3. Small is better. I’m small. I’m like 5’8″ on a good day. Therefore, I eat less, my clothes use less fabric, I breath less air — generally I take up less space on our crowded planet; you’re welcome. Smalls also live longer, actuarially speaking. So — I’m biased, but I think small is better.

I also think small in social media is better. Why? Because small companies have a handful of decision makers that create the soul of a company & convey that soul to its people & audience consistently. And if their little loft of an office is listening to this song all day, and wants to share it with the world, they can. Corny? Maybe — but real. Certainly there’s a sense of identity. And small companies can still listen & watch everything leaving their office without miles of bureaucracy. At the end of the day, that’s a big advantage of being small when it comes to social media.

Meanwhile companies the size of Morgan Stanley print up notepads with aspirational messages for it’s 15,000+ advisors and encourages them to watch a 20 minute video on what it means to be a part of Morgan Stanley.

Small companies have culture because they are living together & growing together. All for one & one for all. I know in my office we discuss client cases as a group to come up with the best solution “as a firm”. Do you think that’s what those morning meetings in your local broker’s office are for? I can assure you, they are not. The brokers in that office are shuffling into the conference room for the free donuts tied to an obligatory sales meeting about the next mutual fund or new franken-product being launched. But why change? They’re the kings of the money mountain.

Ultimately that’s one of the biggest problems with success though, when you have too much. And that’s the reason any money manager with a heart & brain will stop taking new money at some point — because they can no longer provide the attention & performance their once smaller pile allowed for. They self-limit, they know when to quit. But not Wall Street — bigger is better. They want more. Much more. Much, much, muchly more. And now, they’re Too Big To….

4. Personally, I think it’s about Personality. The way I see it, big companies in the future are going to need big personalities. Personalities that embody the soul of the brand. But that’s no small feat. Steve Jobs & his legend are now the DNA of Apple.

Or how about Richard Branson? He’s pulling it off — a billionaire CEO with almost 2 million twitter followers — He’s rich enough to own an island & still somehow actually be adored. But it takes real zen-like work & focus. It takes personality, purpose, and soul. It takes the understanding that Twitter isn’t some time suck or hobby… it’s a revolutionary new way to absorb information & communicate your values, message, and personality. And your brand’s.

But it means making mistakes & paying the consequences (instead of getting bailed out over and over again). It’s not easy. Just ask Google CEO Larry Page …Google owns a social network and in the last 3 months he’s updated his profile like 11 times. How committed is that to being social & transparent? Are we really sure we want them to have all of our information? Where’s their fiduciary standard? But I digress…

5. Team of Ears, One Mouth. Even when big companies can leverage social media with big personalities — it still takes a village to run a village. And on both fronts Wall Street is mostly missing in action. Being social is about openness & connectivity, using social media as a tool to answer questions, fix problems quickly & openly, and listen to what people are saying about you.

And just imagine what the 99% of twitter users would be saying, if Wall Street even cared enough to listen.

It’s not impossible though. Virgin America does it very well with their social media team. And, believe it or not… Bank of America & Wells Fargo have twitter feeds dedicated to such a thing. Of course, Wells Fargo reversing that overdraft fee because of your tweet is a bit of a different conversation than why your broker sold you that fee-laden piece of dung called an investment.

And so, the adoption of social media by the traditional Wall Street firms has been… well, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Go ahead, click through — I’ll wait.

I know. Morgan Stanley’s profile still had the egg. On their face.

6. Be Fast. Social media is fast. Type, Click submit. Hello World.

Mistakes are bound to happen, it’s ok. Some days you’re going to have a bad hair day — that’s okay too, you’re only a corporation filled with humans. But when you do something dumb or make a mistake, fix it -always as fast as you can – and even faster now that there’s social media.

And here’s an example, probably the ultimate example, of Wall Street’s #fail when it comes to social media…

That article I mentioned yesterday in the NY Times. What AMAZING coverage for Fay, right? She is so lucky. I wish one of my quotables had made it — It’s the NEW YORK freaking TIMES.

In all honesty, I was a bit jealous of Fay. I even went to see what was so great about her tweets. And then, I clicked on her homepage link on her twitter profile. I wanted to learn more about her. And my jaw dropped to the floor. Get this…this is what you’ll see when you click to learn more, Nothing.

The link doesn’t even work. (click away, I’ll wait) Now how insanely inanely mind-blowing is that?

…All that free publicity absolutely wasted. Probably hundreds of thousands of dollars in eyes & hours of due diligence by teams of attorneys negotiating contracts to watch that account. Heavy monitoring. How many people?? And her homepage link doesn’t even work.

And unless this post somehow goes viral & embarrasses the crap out of Morgan Stanley like the $5 Bank of America fee fiasco, I can almost guarantee you it won’t be fixed, probably ever. Because Wall Street loves to make a quick buck, but they are slow to change, especially when it comes to technology.

This is a new era people: a more social, interconnected era. The old guard of information & usual gatekeepers aren’t going to be the same, and if you want to be relevant: real is better, smaller is better, faster is better, personal is better, accountability is better… soul is better.

Maybe Fay will get to tweet that someday…

VIDEO after the Jump


Scott Bell is a 30-something married guy with two boys, two dogs, and a mortgage. He’s the CEO of Gross Domestic Product. Inc. and writes his personal opinions & insights about his industry at I heart Wall Street.

This was originally published there.

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