May 24, 2012

Following the lead of a number of Wall Street firms, Goldman Sachs has finally jumped into the 21st century with both feet and joined Twitter.

“We are now live on Twitter (finally) at the GS Annual Meeting. Follow us here for updates on our work, our research, and our people,” Goldman tweeted this morning, as its annual shareholder meeting got underway.

That one tweet attracted 7,000 followers to Goldman Sachs' feed.

It was followed by another tweet announcing that the bank will invest $40 billion in clean technology over the next decade.

Goldman’s first tweets come on the shoulders of a wave of negative publicity the firm received when former employee Greg Smith wrote a scathing article against the bank in The New York Times.

The bank’s initial tweets also come just a few weeks after announcing it was looking to hire a social media strategist – a smart, but long overdue move, given all the negative publicity the firm has garnered in recent times, including on social media.

Until now, Goldman’s only active presence on Twitter has been a parody feed called @GSElevator Gossip, which has over 250,000 followers and purports to report snippets of conversation overheard in the bank’s elevators. Recent tweets include “I'm rich, but not give-up-my-US-passport rich… Yet.” and “From my experience, most people really should have lower self-esteem.”

Goldman has also garnered a wave of negative comments on Facebook, where the bank’s official page has 18,000 fans but only a Wikipedia description of the bank on its public profile, while pages set up in the banks name with comments galore include one titled ‘Goldman Sachs Are Financial Terrorists.’

Goldman’s first tweet was generally greeted with enthusiasm. “Welcome to Twitter,” wrote one follower of the Occupy Wall Street movement, with the Twitter handle @AngeredPopulist.

Others were more tongue in cheek: "Rumor is that person who wrote "finally" facetiously in @GoldmanSachs first tweet has already been fired," wrote John Melloy ‏@CNBCMelloy.

The change in Goldman’s public relations strategy comes after Jake Siewert took over as head of communications for the bank. He was previously White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and served as a communications adviser to Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary. An early task from the board to Siewert was the rebranding of chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, whose image has been severely battered since he started his tenure at the helm of the bank three years ago.

With its newly active Twitter account, Goldman is following the lead of a number of banks and brokerages such as private equity firm Blackstone Group and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, who have been tweeting for a while.

Still, if Goldman wants to really gain positive feedback from its Twitter feed, it might have to be a little less self-congratulatory.

“Annual meeting is a wrap,” Goldman tweeted today. “Prelim votes show all directors elected with overwhelming support. Shareholders support GS on all proposals.”

Comments to Goldman's rather underwhelming follow-up tweet were swift: From @WSJDealjournal: "Update: Goldman Sachs has tweeted again. To say the meeting is over. So that's all its got..."

@CNBC tweeted: "ALERT: All Goldman Sachs directors elected, all shareholder proposals fail - source."

Given that spontaneity is at the heart of social media, it makes sense that Wall Street at large will need to be a little less heavy footed if it wants to increase its fan base and positive feedback - a tall task given that due to compliance concerns, most tweets are pre-written and approved by banks’ compliance departments, rather than being impromptu thoughts and updates.

Ultimately, social media, where negative word-of-mouth can catch on like wild fire, does provide a fantastic marketing opportunity for Wall Street. Here’s hoping that Goldman, and others, will quickly find a way of tapping into it.

[For more on how Wall Street is using social media, read: Social Media Is Wall Street's Number One Enemy .]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melanie Rodier has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for over 10 years, covering business and finance, general news, and film trade news. Prior to joining Wall Street & Technology in ...