I was talking to someone at a conference recently about Twitter. He was complaining about the level of negativity, particularly within the sector of financial advisers. I offered my opinion that this is the purpose of the ‘unfollow’ and maybe even mute and block options. “Oh yes”, he replied. “I’ve done that. Once I blocked six advisers in particular, my Twitter experience became much more enjoyable.”
Another person on Twitter commented that they had blocked the ‘shouty IFAs’ and his Twitter experience was greatly improved as a result.
There are some people who I simply do not bother engaging with. I would not enter into debate with certain politicians, for example, because they are simply incapable of seeing other people’s points of view. Being harangued is not a fun experience.
Stephen McCallum drew a comparison on Twitter with American financial services professionals. There, he says, reasonable debate and the sharing of ideas takes place, in comparison with “the egotistical and obnoxious trolling this side of the pond (which is) an embarrassment and a disgrace.” I love Twitter. It has made a genuinely positive change to my life. I have made good friends through the platform, learned a huge amount during debate, and had the opportunity to put across my point of view to open-minded people. I made a comparison on this site many years ago with Twitter being like a pub. You can sit in a corner and listen to conversation, or you could walk up to a stranger and have a chat.
Now, however, I hear of people saying that they ‘don’t bother with Twitter’ because of the abusive people. To continue the analogy, it can, at times, feel like walking into a pub where the bar is lined with people who have been there all day and are looking for someone to get into an argument with.
Furthermore, Twitter is a public forum. Unpleasant comments and personal attacks make all in financial services look bad. We need to be demonstrating that the world of the IFA is a professional one. It would be very sad if a few people spoiled this wonderful pub by constantly shouting their point of view, and shouting down anyone who disagrees with them. On the other hand I don’t only want people who agree with me. Surely the ideal timeline is one which reflects a broad variety of views put across in a respectful and open minded way. I therefore have a suggestion to make. Let us call out bad behaviour. Step in when you see someone being unreasonable. Call ‘out of order’ when there is a personal attack. Remove someone from the conversation when they are hijacking it to make a separate point. Unfollow, mute, block.
To steal a line from my friend Phil Bray, I am happy to engage with people who disagree, but not who are disagreeable.
Let’s all take responsibility for making the IFA experience on social media one of ‘reasonable debate and sharing of ideas’.
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As well as providing coaching to financial planning firms, Chris also helps owners work out and action succession plans through the Eternal Business Consultancy