When J.P. Morgan Chase rolled out a Twitter Q&A to connect with clients in 2014, the AskJPM hashtag became a household marketing blunder marketing departments still use as an example of how not to develop a post. Had a more calculated approach been made, the results may not have been as embarrassing.
Amid a fear of Regulation Fair Disclosure infractions and further belt-tightening from anticipated interest rate hikes by the Fed in 2016, the fearlessness needed to generate a needed viral following among social networks like Twitter may seem more work than it's worth.
However, Jeremy Floyd, president of BPV Capital Management, says the fear marketing departments express of new regulations is not a valid enough reason for managers to ignore the giant bluebird in the room.
"To me I think the compliance thing is a bit of a cop out," Floyd explains of firms that use their concerns of the unknown as an excuse to avoid social media outreach.
Today, he says, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based national financial services company regularly engages with clients with everything from Twitter to Instagram, blog posts, whitepapers, podcasts and video pieces on its still-developing YouTube page. In an interview with Money Management Executive, Floyd says it's the fearless that firms must now embrace in social media to overcome the fear of regulators knocking down their proverbial doors.
Why have firms been so slow to integrate social media into their marketing structure?
I think there is an increasing desire to be engaged more on a social basis, but there's not really, within most marketing departments, a design to support the technical - as they perceive - aspect of it. We have been doing more and more work with MSCA (Main Street Capital Corporation), spoken on some panels and are involved with their digital program. It is really interesting.
Is it their desire to use digital, among asset managers, to grow their business? They always say that there isn't anybody on their team that gets it and that they don't want to delegate that to an intern, which is good. One of the highest valued positions is somebody with a great understanding of digital and how to maximize it, and a great understanding of the industry. So, I do think that there is a scarcity in the industry to find that unique blend of skills. It's your whole brand. Done poorly it can destroy you.
It's your whole brand. Done poorly it can destroy you. There's the case study of the J.P. Morgan social media crisis from a few years ago now, where they ran the hash tag #AskJPM and thought they would open this conversation up for a sophisticated type, or advisor, to open up the channel and talk about investing.
Well they got destroyed with questions like; "Explain to me how greed is so rampant... and explain to me the whole stereotype of Wall Street," in response to 2008. There were just a lot of replies and they shut it down within 30 minutes. It was a real black eye for them. Why is that?
It's not because they gave it over to an intern. It's about having an understanding of what the digital world looks like and how to weigh into that. Without that understanding of that can be dangerous.
How much have regulatory issues played into this delayed adoption of social media?
The compliance is this great unknown, especially with FINRA, and so there is a real concern about how to engage there; "Can I say this, or can't I say this?" I've done a lot of seminars on social and digital and of course that's how advisors think about it: "how do I promote this?" And the reality, probably for an asset manager, is being real and authentic.
I'm a big believer that great brands are built on warmth and competence, and this industry is brilliant at building competence. It's why everybody wants to provide their latest analysis and why they want to establish their expertise in an old-world image model of trust and credibility. That's not the case anymore because there is one little wire that goes inside those fortresses now that's far more dangerous and that's being connected to the internet. Cyber concerns are much greater so it doesn't matter how it looks or its appearance, it's really easy to penetrate that.
While these images of trust and credibility are changing, the idea of compliance is, "I've got to put all of this expertise out there that that builds competence," but they're not actually building that human aspect of the brand. While asset management firms have been hesitant of what goes on behind the scenes, in reality giving a peek behind the veil and showing what the firm is really like - and the people that make those offices up - is more important.
To me I think the compliance thing is a bit of a cop out. With BPV, we've really taken a transition. We do try to provide value with our clipping service - content curation and sharing things that are valuable - but also using our Instagram account, for example, to share interesting vistas. We have an artist that sketches some of these vistas to show that we are people, we are highly relatable and we have a focus on being humans just like you do.
Can you explain the checklist you have developed for managing your firm's social media?
We spent the last two years building out pretty comprehensive processes. Because of the nature of our industry and the compliance environment we live in, it's important to button up. If we had to produce our records in 48 hours, I am very confident that we could. That is very buttoned up.
So no matter what it is; whether it's a video that we're producing, a podcast, a blog post or a tweet, we have already worked through a process that provides for construction of that content. The editorial review - obviously as much as we do want to be human we want to try not to make mistakes - is basically a process of engaging the clients depending on the type of content, the type of material and the publication of distribution.
The reality is when you get into a lot of content creation it's really easy to think about distribution in one channel and not really how it fits within each of the channels. At the creation -- the concept phase of content -- we really try to think about where this going to go, where are we going to try and distribute this and specifically what affect are we trying to get. If it's a Tweet, obviously that doesn't get a charter, but if it's a big white paper project, we think about concepts as an idea ecosystem.
We were fortunate enough to have a guy Philip Fulmer on our staff who was a hall of fame football coach who won a college national championship in 1998, has a lot of connections with professional athletes. We decided we wanted to create a thought leadership piece with him and discuss how to advise athletes. In our distribution we thought, "Hey, let's do the interview, record it, turn that into a podcast, and once we get the content done let's start blogging about it right away and create a white paper. Then let's do some Google keywords around it and try to drive some traffic in and then use that white paper to fulfill whatever requests are out there."
What type of social media tools is your firm using?
We're very methodical about our ongoing use of anything. We're very liberal in our adoption of any sort of new distribution channel or any new medium. For example, we're using Instagram now, we have a Facebook page, we have a LinkedIn page, we have a Twitter page, a blog, YouTube and we have basically the gamut. What we don't have any more is a Google Plus page.
As part of this charter, we are measuring every effect out there - do we have views on the videos, are we effectively driving traffic to our website, are we accomplishing whatever our objectives are - and so we are fortunate to have a data analytics person on our team who is constantly measuring and reporting back to the team the effectiveness of the energy that we put into things.
How did you decide to abandon Google Plus?
I will say that our Google Plus strategy was never genuinely about engagement on Google Plus, but it was really about search engine optimization at a time with Google authorship in 2013 was a big deal.
It's less of a big deal now and part of the decision on Google Plus was about the macro environment, the trends in the industry, how those are changing and how Google treated their own platform. Probably the most meaningful change that we've made - and I wouldn't say it's a change as much as it is a moment of time where we are - was when we started with video. We put a lot of time and energy into our video creation process and we did not ever get the views that we wanted, nor did the industry.
Look around at any mutual fund company, any asset manager and there are very few that have really impressive numbers, even some of the big guys. We started to really question why that is and we tried some different scripts, we tried different communications that we were putting out there and we didn't find our real sweet spot.
What we want to do is establish our level of competence. We wanted to take the thought leaders we had on the team and put them out there. So, we're measuring the time of the view and the high drop off rate, total number of views is very low. So we started talking to investors. The important thing here is we're not just trying to look at data in a laboratory. We really want to engage advisors with what's going on.
What types outreach methods did you use to gauge your shareholders' engagement?
We did a survey where we asked about the use of video and if they would be willing to talk to us on the phone and we had a surprising number of respondents. They said, "If I'm in my office, I am sitting there focused on one of several things. I'm looking at the markets or I'm trying to talk to my existing clients or I'm trying to generate new business. If you send an email to me and say you have a four minute or even two minute video for me to watch, I'm not going to take the time to do that."
So, we developed a podcast about a year ago. We launched the first with a blend of thought leadership on the economic side and we also had some marketing side to it too. We recently bifurcated those channels into a marketing only channel that's tips for advisors on how to grow their business, and also maintaining the investment side. What's surprising and interesting about it is that you can't measure the same level as you do on video, you just get downloads.
What I think we're seeing right now is an increased desire and need for video. I would say 75% of our videos are not publicly facing, but we are starting shift that back around and publish more public facing content. That's one of the big focuses for us in 2016.