Goldman Sachs Goes from 'Muppets' to Tweets

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Goldman Sachs TwitterIn a move to give itself more of a voice in an online conversation in which it largely gets lambasted, Goldman Sachs (GS) joined Twitter Thursday. Tweeting from @GoldmanSachs, the firm dropped its first three sub-140-character missives -- noting, for example, that it will invest or finance $40 billion in clean tech over the next decade.

Though the move coincided with Goldman's annual shareholders meeting, "[the Twitter account] had been in the works for a while and was accelerated somewhat by my feeling that we couldn't afford not to be in the space," said Jake Siewert, the new global head of corporate communications at the investment bank.

CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the other C-level executives signed off on the decision, he said.

Twitter, of course, is the social media platform where @GSElevator tweets humorous (and allegedly real) dialogue between investment bankers as they travel between floors at the office. The subversive tone of that Twitter account displays the bankers as both arrogant misogynists and greedy nogoodniks. It was that sort of thing, among other pervasive negativity about the bank, that spurred Goldman to increase its social media presence.

"Without commenting on any particular voice, there are lots of people who communicate on Twitter about GS every day -- some serious, some funny, some trying hard," Siewert said. "It's important for us to have a voice there as well."

The traditional press office currently operates the Twitter feed, but Goldman is considering adding a dedicated staffer to handle digital media, Siewert said.

Much maligned throughout the financial crisis, Goldman began taking even heavier flak after the March New York Times op-ed column of Greg Smith, a former employee who left after 12 years at the firm and who described the current environment there as being "as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it." Though Blankfein may claim to do God's work, Smith painted a damning portrait of a firm where managing directors -- with an air of braggadocio and disdain -- referred to clients as "muppets."

The PR disaster that was Muppetgate broke less than 24 hours after Siewert assumed his position at Goldman, but he knows something about crisis management. He was a press advisor to President Bill Clinton throughout his impeachment trial, and the president's final press secretary.

Of course, Goldman is a little late to the social media party, but there's nothing like a press disaster to induce change. Why did it take the investment bank so long to get on Twitter?

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"Hard to say," Siewert said. "Of course, consumer companies like Starbucks and Pepsi have been excellent in the space, but I've been pretty impressed with how traditionally reticent institutions like Treasury, Blackstone, the Federal Reserve have used digital media. No reason why banks can't try."

Of course, more investors and financial advisers are using social media to acquire financial information and advice. That real-time conversation is becoming increasingly important to shareholders and clients.

"No doubt," Siewert said. "Our customers and clients are increasingly using social media, and we need to be where they are."


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