by Eric M. Bushkin, Senior Account Executive, Business Wire/Florida
There’s a popular old saying: “Save the best for last.” For me, that held true at this year’s NIRI National Conference at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, FL.
As many of our publicly traded partners know, the NIRI National Conference is THE event of the year for IROs to get together, network, learn about what’s new in the world of disclosure and meet companies that provide tools to help make the disclosure world a bit simpler.
It was an honor to be able to be a part of the Business Wire team at this year’s conference and as I looked over this year’s agenda, one particular event stood out in my mind: The last one. And it was all about social media. The panel consisted of IR practitioners and investment professionals, and provided practical advice on using social media as an additive method of engagement.
The role of social media as a primary disclosure channel wasn’t really in debate – the group felt social media is not appropriate to break material news, but has many uses to help further engage and reach interested constituents.
Dennis Walsh, Vice President & Director, Social Media for Sharon Merrill Associates, did an excellent job on keeping the interactivity lively during the session, titled “Take the Wheel and Drive: Your Company’s Social Media Strategy”
As we learned very early on during this session, not many of us in investor relations are using social media at all as part of our day-to-day communications efforts. If you’re saying, “I sure do not use social media” you certainly are not alone. In fact, according to a just-released NIRI survey, 72% of us working in investor relations have not even dipped our toes in the social media waters and remain on the side of the pool.
According to the survey, there are several reasons that IROs avoid social media:
- Lack of investor demand
- Management doesn’t see value
- Inability to control message
- Lack of understanding on how to best utilize social media
For the minority of us that are engaging in social media, Twitter remains the most-utilized platform. RJ Jones, investor relations officer at Zillow, provided an innovative and medium-appropriate approach to using social media and the impact it had on earnings questions fielded. The Zillow team determines in advance which data they want to share via social media, and then creates short info-graphic like images to post during their earnings call. They don’t live tweet their executive comments, but rather stick to pre-determined messages. They field questions via their webcast as well as social media. They pick up additional questions with their follow-up blog post. A set of practical, manageable and measurable approaches to social media for investor relations amplifies their engagement.
At Business Wire, we’ve long provided a wide range of industry- and topic-specific Twitter channels that auto-tweet client news to financial bloggers, reporters and investors. We also provide a wide range of channel-specific social media sharing tools on press releases and each piece of multimedia content. We encourage IROs to understand the keywords, cashtags ($tickersymbol) and platforms that are most used by investors in your stock and industry. Listening and sentiment tools are a good first start. (Business Wire’s Social Media Landscape reports can be ordered as one-offs when you issue an earnings report to get a sense of the social impact of your material news.) In addition, we encourage you to point to your official IR social media channels and step out how you use them – to field questions during calls, to tweet links to press releases and filings, etc. Remember, consistency is crucial in any communications channel you adopt: Treat news – good or bad – equally in your communications efforts.
What other ways can IROs become more comfortable in getting our message out to the financial community through social channels? It may be a good idea to take a walk down your hall for a visit with your company’s public relations and marketing folks. Those departments have been utilizing social media with regularity for a very long time and certainly can convey some knowledge to help you make an impact and engage your specific audience.
This way, you can collaborate with those members of your communications team to ensure message continuity for all audiences. You’ll also learn ways to both push and pull information:
- Pull by constantly monitoring a variety of social channels to see what conversations are happening around your company.
- Push by having a regular program of output into those channels; both your own content and that of your investors and customers, by optimizing your news for search and by making it easy for readers to share your content.
Issuing a press release over Business Wire not only fulfills your disclosure requirements, but pushes your press release out to mainstream media and financial portals, as well as putting your news out on the web, so folks can search for your company and ultimately pull your information from search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Releasing your news to these two important — yet distinctively different – audiences is vital, since most of us are no longer at our offices in front of a desk for the majority of our work day. Mobile’s share of total pageviews is growing every day, and most analysts believe mobile devices are set to overtake desktop PCs as a dominant internet access platform. So we must be able to access news and be able to deliver our message any time of the day, regardless of where we are.
Once you become more and more comfortable using social media you will be able to implement this as part of your IR strategy. After all, 66% of companies already have a social media policy currently in place and it’s imperative that the IR team is adhering to it.
Judging by the attendance at the NIRI session, we have a strong desire to learn more about how best to apply social media in meaningful and compliant ways to investor relations. Always feel free to reach out to your local office at Business Wire so we can teach you some tips and best practices as it pertains to your financial news being released to the masses.
Follow Eric on Twitter for more of his insights on PR, IR and other topics.