Analysts chattering on Twitter – the genie is out of the bottle

icon-social-media-blue.jpgThere is an interesting blog post by Redmonk analyst James Governor on Industry analyst relations and Twitter: The Dark Side and a related one by Marketing Strategies for IT Vendors analyst Merv Adrian AR: Tiering Analysts Is Good, But Don’t Play Childish Games. These posts bring up several issues (e.g., tiering analyst lists, confidentiality, and transparency), but the one we want to address in this post is the issue of analysts tweeting about planned vendor briefings and how some AR professionals would prefer analysts not to do so. 

Both Merv (“But this “pssst…don’t tell anyone we’re talking” thing is something else entirely. It smacks of gamesmanship…”) and James (“The first rule of vendor briefings is… don’t talk about vendor briefings. That is just crazy.”) do not like the idea of being asked not to tweet about an upcoming vendor briefing. To a certain extent they have a point. Being asked not to tweet runs counter to the whole ethos of social media and sharing information. However, some analysts are using their tweeting as a marketing tool by in essence saying “See how important I am? I am getting briefed by Acme Software! Don’t you want to brief me too?”

While we see the analysts’ perspective, these and other analysts with the same opinion are not looking at from the vendor’s point-of-view. Knowing that a vendor is briefing an analyst provides AR at a competitor with valuable competitive intelligence. In fact, harvesting useful intelligence about what a competitor is doing with the analysts is one of the reasons SageCircle teaches vendors why AR teams need to be on Twitter and other forms of social media. However, there is an underlying tension with wanting information about your competitor, but not having information about your activities publicly disseminated.

So in this brave new world there are implications for both AR and analysts.

Analyst relations – Get over it. The Twitter genie is out of the bottle and there is no way to stuff that critter back. AR needs to adapt to the changed environment by deciding how to deal with some analysts desire to tweet. If all the analyst is doing is tweeting or blogging about the fact that a briefing is taking place, but not releasing confidential information, then that might be something tolerated… if done by a highly relevant analyst. If this activity is done by a less relevant analyst, then AR has to decide if the analyst should even receive advanced briefings or wait until the day of an announcement to inform them. AR teams need to develop a formal policy governing what is, and what is not, tolerable so as not to act arbitrarily.

Analysts – Tweet all you want… but don’t complain if some vendors decide that it is not their interest to provide you with advanced briefings. Analysts will need to realize that the vendor is not punishing them, but only wanting to keep certain information out of the public domain. Analysts need to decide what is the business value of background briefings and whether occasionally not tweeting about a briefing is in their best interest.

SageCircle Technique:

  • AR should to develop a flexible social media policy and update it on a regular basis as technologies and attitudes evolve
  • AR should revisit their analyst list management framework– or create one–  to incorporate social media traffic and use patterns into the “visibility” and “trustworthiness” criteria
  • AR needs to educate executive sponsors and other internal stakeholders about the social media patterns of analysts about to be briefed and modify the briefing goals and content appropriately

Bottom Line: As social media evolves both analysts and AR need to show flexibility. By understanding the other party’s concerns there should be a way to reach a reasonable compromise.

Question: AR – Do you have examples of analyst tweeting that caused you problems with your executives or other stakeholders?



  1. some analysts are using their tweeting as a marketing tool by in essence saying “See how important I am? I am getting briefed by Acme Software! Don’t you want to brief me too?”

    really carter? name one.

  2. i also think its silly to confuse saying you are having a briefing from sharing content about the briefing itself. two different things

    and you don’t even mention the potential BENEFITS to being more open to tweeted briefings and updates. i have seen a prospect, not even a client, get offered an RFP by a potential customer on the strength of one of my tweets…

  3. Hi James,

    Thanks for the comments. As to “naming names,” alas I cannot. This is not because I do not know of any, but because I can give out their names.

    I have chatted with a number of analysts – off the record – who have been pleasantly surprised how effective Twitter and/or their blogs have been in raising their personal brands and getting the attention of vendors who pay them scant attention in the past. This has been true for analysts from the largest firms to the single practitioners. So they were quite explicit that social media is a great marketing tool for them.

    BTW, a lot of my conversations with individual analysts or executives start with a “Can you keep this off your blog?”, which if they are reasonable requests, I am happy to agree to.

    As to benefits. Sure there are both upsides and downsides. But they have to weighted within a decision framework.

    Cheers, -carter j

  4. I would have a problem being asked to not tweet about an upcoming vendor briefing.

    With the possible exception of a briefing about such an exceptionally ultra-confidential matter, the mere (ac)knowledge(ment) of which could conceivably compromise the entire confidentiality of the topic of the briefing itself, I think that it is unreasonable to ask an analyst to refrain from acknowledging or commenting on the existence of an upcoming briefing.

    There are multiple ways in which an upcoming vendor briefing can be learned, and could be known: an internal master calendar, an analyst’s individual calendar (which, on Outlook, is usually often freely searchable), visitors to an office seeing or learning of a briefing, an analyst having to beg off another commitment, and forced to provide a reason in order to not compromise another relationship, ancillary parties and participants commenting on an upcoming briefing, and surely other ways as well.

    Given this, to put an analyst in a position of not being able to acknowledge or comment on a briefing that is knowable, and may be known to other people, compromises that analyst’s integrity and reputation. In so doing, a vendor could be damaging or compromising the very integrity and reputation of the analyst from whom they are asking advice.

    Worse, the vendor could be denying themselves the benefit of insights that could be gained prior to the briefing. This could be the epitome of short-sightedness. If I, as a client, thought that an analyst was pulling punches – pretending not to know, or failing to acknowledge or comment on – something that I believed to be knowable and known, I would have to think about using a different analyst.

    Analysts I know do everything they can to respect a client’s wishes for confidentiality, to safeguard that confidentiality, and to earn a client’s trust and respect. It should be possible to balance a client’s wish for confidentiality with an Analyst’s integrity and forthrightness.

  5. Personally, I generally don’t feel the need to tweet about up and coming briefings as I can’t think who that would be valuable to.

    I acknowledge that some might be trying to highlight their own importance/acceptance, but that would only be of benefit to a start-up firm – it’s of no real value once you are established. Even then, it’s probably more effective to say something substantial/useful about the outcome of the briefing after the event.

    Perhaps there is an argument that if the people you are advising or collaborating with see you have a briefing scheduled, they might ping you with some things to think about covering off with the vendor, but I think that’s an unlikely scenario. When I want input of this kind, I explicitely poll for it, typically via email or the phone so I can have a proper exchange.

    I think group events and analyst conferences are a bit different. Provided there is no obvious hush-hush element, twitter is great to checking out who else is going to be there as part of the whole professional networking and social thing.

    Events to one side, though, my question to analysts who habitually tweet about forward looking diary entries relating to firm or analyst specific briefings is why do you it?

    If there is a good reason, then I’ll start doing it too – I’m all for adopting best practice.


  6. First up my thanks to Dom Pannell who introduced me to Twitter which has significantly altered the way I approach AR. Twitter has livened things up no end. A couple of interesting examples:

    1. Doing a CEO tour, I mentioned the importance of Twitter to the CEO who said ‘I don’t get this Twitter thing’ 20 minutes later on a call with an analyst that Tweets, I showed him the tweet/comments that were made on the company during the call and now he gets it
    2. At a major vendor event and one analyst fired off about a total of 20 Tweets during the course of the event, when I mentioned that I had read his tweets with interest he said – please send them back to me and I will blog about it. And he did.
    Twitter is an other analyst channel/output platform, for AR people it is easy to track (subscription fees not needed), personally I don’t really care what an analyst tweets about, but I care that they are Tweeting and if I don’t track it, I am not doing my job right, talking of which think I should fire up Tweetdeck 😉

  7. Loving the comments from Bob Eastman and Marc Duke.

    Dale- i tend not to tweet something forward looking, but i just tweet what i am doing – and being an analyst, taking briefings is a big part of that.

  8. In my experience, Best Practice has always been, unless circumstances specifically dictated otherwise, to multi-purpose a vendor briefing.

    I could give many examples; here is one: I once heard from an analyst that they were on a train in the U.K. headed to a briefing with a major software vendor.

    I immediately reached a CIO of a company in the midwest, solicited from the CIO the “5” most urgent questions that he had for this vendor. I relayed these to the analyst on his mobile on the train. Analyst went armed to the briefing, and came out with deep, specific answers to the CIO’s questions.

    This changed the simple, single-purposed vendor briefing to a more robust conversation in which the vendor briefed us; learned of questions from an end-user client; we demonstrated to the vendor that we were talking to their customers; and we provided insight to the vendor that we might not have been able to otherwise provide.

    In addition to the usual write-up from the briefing that we published, we provided a written debriefing back to the end-user client addressing each of their specific questions. This has been a Best Practice in my experience that we would try to replicate as often as possible.

    This is, to me a strong argument in favor of allowing the Analyst to use their good judgment and analytical skills to do great things for clients.

  9. Thanks for all the great comments. I am currently quite busy with client deliverables and will not be able to join into the conversation until late this afternoon or evening.

  10. @James – that’s cool, and totally in keeping with the general open declarative way in which you operate, which I totally respect.

    @Robert – I guess multi-purpose briefings are pretty normal for lots of analysts and, as I said, they are for me too, but preparation tends to be premeditated and structured in my case using email and the phone as I described. Is the new Best Practice you are proposing the opportunistic element facilitated by social media? If so, what are your thoughts on the size and the extent of the network that you need to be hooked into to make a difference? Does it mean we should all be actually promoting Twitter as a more fundamental part of the way in which we interact with our audiences? Right now, with Twitter use often being intermittent and/or quite casual on the part of many followers, I think it is more of an optional medium for most – i.e. nice to have, but not to be relied upon – hence me still tending to use email and the phone for core client interaction, briefing preparation, etc.

    Standing back a bit, while many of us are obviously very active on Twitter, and ARs ignore that at their peril, I would be interested in just how fundamental the medium has become for other analysts in terms of client/audience interaction versus other ways of communicating.

    I freely admit I could be behind the curve here in regarding Twitter as a secondary and opportunistic medium, given the rate at which things have been moving.


  11. Part of the value of twitter is as an “ear to the ground” for any community that forms within its audience. I find great value in knowing that my peers are being briefed by firms I follow. It tells me that if I have not actively outreached to those firms of late, it may well be time for me to do so.
    This is parrticularly useful now that I’m no longer on the “circuit” some firms go on for campaigns. As an independent, I have great relationships with a number of firms, as I always have. And some are clients. Others, especially the less proactive firms – and there are many of those – may not come to me, so it’s up to me to do my due diligence and approach them for updates. So for me, seeing a tweet or two from time to time that says “About to be briefed by vendor X” lets me keep up.
    And I have also used Dale’s technique of soliciting ideas for the interaction. At the end of the day, such techniques improve the flow of information in the market – and that’s what we’re about. Twitter is a useful mechanism to promote it.

  12. It depends upon the content of the tweet. I do not see any harm in the analyst tweeting about our briefing. I rely on them to not violate the spirit of our NDA.

    The fact that we are briefing them is not a state secret, however some of the content could be. So far I have not seen (or experienced) any examples of analysts tweeting protected information.

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