Morning Coffee May 26 2011

Morgan Stanley Brokers Take to Twitter

By kyle stock

OMG, wld u trust a brker who twts?

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney has tiptoed into the 21st century slightly ahead of its rivals. The brokerage, a joint venture between Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, has given the thumbs up for 600 of its top advisers to create LinkedIn profiles next month and start some "restricted" posting on Twitter. In other words, tweets will have to be pre-approved by the firm's compliance personnel.

Morgan Stanley plans to grant similar access to all 17,800 of its brokers by December.

The decision seems like a no-brainer in an age when the office water-cooler and old-fashioned chamber of commerce networking have largely been replaced by 140-character missives and cyber "connections."

But anyone who has ever clicked "reply all" when they intended to hit "reply" knows that the web can be a brutally easy place to slip up. What if a broker inadvertently blasted a link to a series of stock tips from the next Ponzi criminal or quickly touted an investment as "safe" when the actual risk is a bit more complicated?

Early last year, FINRA released some sound guidelines urging banks and brokerages to treat social media content as "sales literature." We also compiled some best practices for those new to the game.

Massachusetts regulators, meanwhile, are surveying advisors this week to figure out how exactly they use social media (apparently, instead of just pulling up their profiles).

The real question, however, may not be whether Morgan will slip up, but if the firm will post anything authentic and valuable enough to win followers. Social media is shaping up as another front where the flexibility of a small, independent platform is a distinct business advantage.

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