Devie Mohan is an insightful and influential fintech thought leader and her firm, Burnmark, produces outstanding research on a wide variety of fintech topics (see recent Burnmark reports on Digital Wealth, Challenger Banking, Insurtech, and Regtech among others).
As part of my continuing series on social media influencers in fintech, I put a series of questions to Devie about her digital practices. Her responses are instructive for any business leader and left me wondering: Why don’t more business leaders, especially those leading fintech startups, leverage the power of social networks as Devie has?
While social networks and the fintech discussions they facilitate have morphed in the past several years, they still represent an enormous opportunity to discover innovative insights and connect with influential people shaping the future of financial services. As Devie Mohan’s experience attests, by sharing knowledge and insights, taking the time to get to know people and being dedicated, one can build an entire business.
Can you briefly describe what you do professionally and how your career arc brought you to this place?
I run a fintech research company, Burnmark, that provides data and research to banks, consulting firms, enterprises, and more. I feel like I have several other full-time jobs as well, as I spend a lot of time on social media, writing and commentating, advisory boards, mentoring and speaking at events.
I started off in technology equities sales at Goldman Sachs, later on moving to technology firms like IBM, Ericsson, SunTec and Thomson Reuters. I spent the majority of my career thinking up ways to use technology to improve the financial industry and when the fintech revolution began, it was the most natural fit for my career path.
When and why did you decide to focus on building your visibility and following in online social networks? What was your original motivation?
I had only around 20 followers on Twitter, mostly friends and family, for several years. I barely tweeted. I barely noticed anything new on Twitter. However, in 2014-15, I watched a new movement taking place almost entirely on Twitter – this was the beginning of the fintech discussions on Twitter, with a huge amount of participation from startups, evangelists, influencers and investors, plus a handful of bankers. I had worked in both finance and technology industries and had a lot of opinions on the discussions going on. I would read a lot, comment and share a lot of reading material on Twitter and that quickly made my network bigger. After a while, I began to see that my social media presence (mostly Twitter and Linkedin) was helping me get projects and speaking sessions and I learnt to be professional about it. Building up my online presence was all learnt by trial and error!
How have you achieved so much recognition? What are you doing online that you feel is most effective in building your audience?
I have pretty strong opinions on a variety of topics 🙂 and I do not shy from saying those publicly. I find that a lot of people in fintech tend to be diplomatic with their views as it’s a new industry and hard to judge where it’s going. But I want to help shape the industry and being diplomatic is the last thing that’s going to help! Most of my opinions come from hours and hours of research and going through all available data points, so I am happy to stand by the bold statements I make.
I also never tweet something I haven’t read (except sometimes when I support/promote my close Twitter friends, of course!) and I never tweet a link more than once. I am not on Twitter to get a good “influencer score”, but to make a real impact in the fintech industry.
Do you use any tools to help you? For instance, how do you find relevant material to share? How to you maintain your active sharing schedule?
I read a lot! Even when I am quiet on Twitter, I am watching it and reading all that’s being shared. Anything I find interesting, I put on my TweetDeck scheduler. I know the times and days that work best for fintech tweets, so I try to make use of those time slots as much as possible.
I never tweet anything when I am on holiday or busy, purely because I would not have had time to read anything new. I find sharing links meaningless if you have no comments or opinion around it.
My tweeting style has, however, changed drastically since I launched my research company. Burnmark has tonnes of new data points and research reports being published every week, so those take up most of my feed – I hope readers find the new data from Burnmark as useful as I do.
People often tell me they’re too busy for social networking, yet every online influencer I’ve ever spoken to is extremely busy. How do you find time for it? Specifically, can you describe your routine and estimate the amount of time you invest daily/weekly?
I treat my social media presence as an almost full time job. In my early days of tweeting (2014-15), I would invest approximately 3 hours every day for social media. I would hand-pick people to follow, with the plan to follow a few hundred every week, enter into as many discussions around fintech as possible, and read and share widely.
Now, I use Twitter in a different way as I have built a community already. I rarely find time to follow anyone new, and I use Twitter to publish content, research and updates.
What online behaviours (or people) inspire you? What online behaviours do you find annoying or counter-productive?
I learnt all about Twitter behaviour from some of the early fintech evangelists like Chris Skinner, Duena Blomstrom, Jim Marous, David Brear, Chris Gledhill and Ron Shevlin. I was amazed at the dedication and effort they put into their social media accounts on a daily basis – their thoughts and commentary were immensely inspirational!
I trusted fintech influencer lists until these began to be abused mercilessly. I have seen some so-called influencers who auto-retweet tweets using other people’s names and other highly unprofessional behaviour. I get annoyed every time I see these people getting placed high on lists – those lists have become meaningless to me.
I also get annoyed when the same tweet is repeated by the same person several times through the day, each time tagging influencers! Common courtesy is vastly missing in today’s fintech social media world, and unfortunately there may be very little we can do about it.
What have you accomplished so far? How has your online social networks and your visibility as an influencer impacted your business activities? What are the benefits?
I always recommend my friends and colleagues to work on improving their visibility on social media. Most of the work I get – research projects, speaking sessions, consulting, etc. – are from my social media networks, or based on my commentary on a certain topic. Every tweet I make and blog I write has an immediate impact on the projects that come to me.
Burnmark has no sales or marketing team – we only have Twitter, Linkedin and newsletters as our sales channels. In that way, Burnmark is a company built almost entirely on social media marketing.
What have you learned from your experience building your online social network?
Social media is an extension of your own personality, it works well when you are honest about what you want to say. Authenticity is what will set you apart. Experimenting with different approaches also helps with keeping the feed fresh and interesting.
I have been on a social media sabbatical recently due to travel and time off internet, but I hope to get back to sharing more soon.
Hear more of Devie’s thoughts in her TEDx Talk discussing the exciting possibilities and impacts of a cashless economy.