Social media is about being … social. Not broadcasting messages and walking away. It means sharing content, not controlling it.

“At iShares, we have a mantra statement. Our mantra statement is: It’s not just what we want to tell you. It’s what we’re hoping you will share with your friends and colleages,’’ said Eileen Loustau, Director, US iShares, Digital Content and Social Media for BlackRock. “It’s all about the share.”

"It's not necessarily about you,’’ said Mark McKenna, Head of Marketing and Communications for Putnam Investments, at NICSA’s 30th Annual Conference and Expo. “It's not about the Putnam fund. They’re recommending things to theirr friends because they like their friends."

That said, Putnam has created, in effect, a newsroom for creating content that matters every day.

The blogging and posting starts with the company’s CEO, Bob Reynolds. To make sure everything goes smoothly, the office to McKenna’s right is that of the firm’s director of compliance.

But there’s also a high-definition video studio. A web design team. A writing team. Team members are separated by glass walls, “very much like a news organization,’’ he says.

“People now see that this is a space you absolutely have to plan for,’’ he said.

Because what investment funds, portfolio managers and financial advisors all are engaged in now is content marketing, according to Rubesh Jacobs, Senior Managing Consultant for Kasina, which tracks the use and impact of social media.

By Kasina’s count, more than 70 percent of firms in financial industries either are or plan to be involved with Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn by year’s end.

And their audiences will not be the guy in baggy pants, raiding the fridge in the middle of the night. BlackRock, for instance, is targeting “all sophisticated investors,’’ not just financial advisors, Loustau said.

“What we really want to do is create awareness of our products and of our thought leadership,’’ she said. And make it “highly shareable and very cool.”

BlackRock’s approach is based on one or two postings a day to the iShares blog, such as a playbook for cash sitting on the sidelines (a pre-Super Bowl set of investing tips) or an infographic showing five countires that offer hidden value to investors.

These are followed by postings to Facebook and Twitter as mechanisms for distributing the ideas and commentary in the blog.

But that’s just the start. Syndicating the content is now a full-time job for one BlackRock social media staff member – and Loustau says it soon will be the task of a second, as well.

"To be honest now, we care that you come but we care more that you consume the content,’’ she said.

A recent post on dividend growth and volatility, for instance, was read by fewer than 600 people on the blog, directly. But it got picked up by a financial site with a higher readership, Seeking Alpha, and that generated an additional 9,300 views.

That led to 372 people deciding to follow BlackRock on Twitter, where BlackRock tweets three times a day.

BlackRock will even pay Twitter to let it promote ideas to its audience when key words appear in its tweet stream. That can produce 38,000 impressions for a point it’s trying to get across.

All told, in 2010, she says, the company got 289,000 page views from its blog – and

310,000 page views from syndication.

Putnam also pivots off blogs, specifically fund manager and analyst insights on its Putnam Perspectives. The biggest proponent: CEO Reynolds.

The key to McKenna is how to amplify results. A Putnam app on the iPad generated 198,000 impressions in the last five days. Getting a piece cited on CBS MarketWatch funneled traffic from its 5 million page views a day.

The trick is finding the right mix of market commentary, product updates, trend information and, yes, humor to make it interesting. And personal.

One tack Putnam took was to shoot the golf swing of one pro player in a 10,000-frames-a-secnd analysis of his golf swing. Thirty factors from impact angle to spin rate of the ball were analyzed. And this lets Putnam not just get fans, but fits into its overall sports marketing efforts.

What ultimately matters, says Diane Frankenfield, Senior Vice President of Marketing, at OppenheimerFunds is finding “indicators of our likelihood of being successful.” Finding ways to correlate what is communicated on social media with sales and redemptions of fund shares. Find ways to track exposure to the brand and the content with the willingness to act.

That can involve what Loustau calls “social listening.’’ BlackRock employs an online service, for instance, that lets it track BlackRock material that financial advisors across the country post on their sites.

Frankenfeld tracks how many advisors (1,600) that follow its blog stream and how many persons follow its Twitter feed (14,000).

Then she tries to "carefully navigate" the interaction as the followers start to develop a feeling for the company, its investment ideology, its humor (there’s that word again).

"They begin to have an image of you," she said. A sense of what your company is about.

Listening let Frankenfeld and Oppenheimer stop using its streams of communications to defend against missteps it had made with investors. They weren’t talking about it any longer, so “we learned to stop talking about it" and changed its messages to focus on introducing its products to new faces.

The trick is understanding what OppenheimerFunds or Putnam Investments or iShares is about and developing a social media persona that matches. 

“When you're doing social, you are a person,’’ said Loustau. “ You are not a company.”

Tom Steinert-Threlkeld writes for Securities Technology Monitor.



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