Getting Started on Twitter for Investment Marketers: How?

OK, so you’re broadly convinced of the merits of getting yourself on Twitter. Now what?

Working out how to get started on Twitter depends very much on what your aims are. Too often, a company will dive straight into social media for no better reason than that it “should” have a presence there. While we’re of the belief that finance professionals should indeed, in most cases, strongly consider having a Twitter presence, absent any strategy or goals it will quickly descend into the realms of annoyance and irrelevance.

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Typical goals for a broader social media strategy would include raising brand awareness, driving traffic to your site, and measuring conversion rates (see here and here for excellent primers). Whatever goal you ultimately decide on, it should, as with any effective strategy or mission statement, act as a guide and a backstop when you’re scratching your head about what and whether to tweet. Will this link further my aim of supporting our brand? Might it drive traffic to my site? And, crucially, could it actually end up undermining those goals?

Once you have your goals in place, and assuming you’re not already an accomplished Tweeter, the best next step is … linger.

Like any forum, Twitter has an etiquette and language all of its own. For marketers unfamiliar with the medium, the temptation might be just to churn out company-related Tweets, perhaps accompanied by links to fund brochures on your site, while using language akin to that heard at an ad agency’s brainstorming session. Setting aside issues of compliance (of which more in a later post), such Tweets will in most cases do nothing but bore and disengage your potential audience – who, after all, have millions of other choices for who they can follow on Twitter.

So, before you dive in, try observing the waters from a safe vantage point. Get a feel for how asset managers, journalists, forex traders and sundry other finance professionals tweet to one another. Crucially, also look at how – and whether – they engage with customers. With all that done, then try dipping your toe in at the shallow end. When you do so, here are some broad guidelines about how to Tweet:

FIND YOUR VOICE: A crucial part of getting started is figuring out your tone of voice and sticking with it. In finance, the default setting will, understandably, veer toward sober and business-like – after all, few people will want to invest with a company given to provocative, affectedly breezy or slang-crammed outbursts on a very public forum.

Even within those parameters, however, there is room for manoeuvre.

Among the more active asset managers on Twitter, for instance, PIMCO and American Century Investments offer a subtle, yet informative, difference in emphasis.

PIMCO’s tweets follow a fairly conventional pattern, providing quotes, links to articles, or notifications that C-level figures from the company are being interviewed on TV (as one of the biggest fixed-income funds in the world, PIMCO’s name alone is probably the key factor for its gaining 184,000 Twitter followers):

pimco twitter page
Now compare with American Century Investments. Though the US asset manager also tweets plenty of links to videos and interviews of its own experts, it intersperses them with more light-hearted and/or inspirational fare, conveying a company that is very keen to emphasise a broader, socially conscious role:

Neither is necessarily right or wrong, but both strive to be consistent with the wider identity of the company they represent. This is something that should be central to your Twitter efforts, too.

INFORM: One of the biggest challenges for any company looking to develop its content marketing is just that – content. Finance professionals, however, are (or at least should be) blessed with reams of the stuff: white papers, commentaries, interviews, viewpoints, the list goes on. Better still, the demands of the industry dictate that this material is constantly updated to provide potential and existing clients with relevant, insightful content – indeed, content that convinces clients that their money’s safe with you!

That said, not all content lends itself equally well to Twitter audiences. On what is an inherently ephemeral platform, 30-page white papers may not be the most effective means of imparting complex information concisely and with impact. Though we won’t enter into a deep breakdown of their relative merits here, infographics, videos, slides and other visual media can be very effective – and, crucially, shareable – on Twitter.

Whatever form of content you use, its primary aim on Twitter should be to make the reader smarter, or at least entertained. Though all social media activity for businesses is aimed, ultimately, at bringing in and retaining customers, Twitter (and social media generally) is not — repeat, not — the place for flagrant self-promotion. To have other Tweeters follow you, share your content and hold you in high regard, provide them with things that make them smarter and respond to their needs. If a prospective customer remembers you for frequently sharing outstanding insights on markets and investment issues — and even better, responding to questions — when the time comes for him to make an investment of his own, that “relationship” will almost certainly count for more than an ad.

ENGAGE: This is perhaps the area of social media that most fills “traditional” marketing chiefs in the finance sector with dread. Far more accustomed to dictating the message via ads, white papers or the like, “engagement” is where the gates of Hell are opened, allowing the great unwashed to flood through and – gulp! – respond, thereby drowning the company in criticism, tittle-tattle and scorn.

But not so fast. While many finance companies are still throttling their Twitter accounts with compliance – a particular burden given the well-documented impatience of Twitter users – others have learned to adapt admirably. Take Woodford (full disclosure: a client of ours), which has managed to combine engagement with genuine insight, all without explicitly plugging themselves or falling foul of compliance. Given that ever more data show that consumers are more inclined to trust companies that are responsive on social media, Woodford’s Twitter policy is an exemplar of how the medium should be used.

(NB, there are several examples of finance companies showing how not to use engagement, too, so you do need to go into forums like Twitter with your eyes open.)

ADJUST: This is where social media really comes in to its own. In stark contrast to conventional marketing methods, Twitter has sophisticated analytics tools that allow you to see, beyond mere retweets and favourites, which of your Tweets are gaining the most traction and exposure. You can see which topics engage your followers the most, which hashtags most effectively push their buttons, and whether or not graphics work for you. You can even figure out the times – and locations – at which people are most responsive.

While this too will be the subject of a future post, suffice it to say that this information can be gold. With fairly rudimentary analysis, you can adjust your tweeting policy to prompt better results, and really see your engagement improve.

Should you be needing help to get started on Twitter or any other platform, please do drop us a line.