Category Archives: Social media for IR

Survey results 2013 v. 2014: Is investor relations tweeting?

Once again, we asked IR clients and prospects their view on social media. For the best apples-to-apples comparison, we asked exactly the same audience the exact same questions we asked one year ago.

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BELOW: Small adoption, year over year.

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BELOW: Most all the “other” comments can be summarized by this verbatim comment: “No real demand by investors.”  This does seem to align with what investors told us.

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BELOW: Perhaps the “yes” and “no” decisiveness for 2014 v. 2013 show a maturity of decision making and understanding of what social media is and is not. Interesting that the 2% “yes” from last year is equal to the 2% adoption indicated on the first question.  

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BELOW: If tweeting, IR departments are slowly taking control of their own outbound. This may need a data parse by market-cap later. 

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BELOW: Just FYI. Overall, the study received 970 responses. 

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View this study as “trending data” and not as any “IR needs to take action and do XYZ .” Our view has been solid on this topic. Social media is a news channel – and individual companies should adopt it OR NOT per their own shareholder communications mosaic strategy. It’s not a wasteland but it’s not sliced bread either.

LINKS:

Here is a whitepaper download on the topic.

Here are blog discussions on the topic.

Here is a fancy-schmacy version of the 2013 results.

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Forget content, the $cashtag is king in IR social media

cashtagisking1Investor Relations Officers don’t realize how easy they have it.

Sprouting up from the post “StockTwits drives 3X the traffic than Twitter for shareholder communications,” have been client discussions regarding that, compared to all other communications departments within a corporation, the Investor Relations department has it easy in regard to social media.

Three factors contribute:

  • The $cashtag
  • The audiences’ expectation
  • StockTwits

The $cashtag is king

At last count, there are eleventy kabillon people in Tweet-based social media, all sharing obscene amounts of information. The only way to find value from this data is via filters… and the $cashtag ( a dollar sign and ticker symbol ) is the smartest – and more importantly – the most specific filter in all of social media. If you consider social media as one huge database… your $cashtag only ever refers to your company. Nothing else is your $cashtag. It identifies your ccompanyexactly like your ticker symbol. #Hastags #are #too #random #these #days.

Additionally, the $cashtag is usually only found within capital markets-based content, simplifying monitoring. No other department within your company can type in a mere four or five characters to search and review relevant content. No other department can push news instantly into investor-targeted databases, reaching both buyer and seller. More on this in the StockTwits section.

The audience’s expectation is low.

Relax. Investors don’t expect Investors Relations to suddenly become chatty because of social media. They know you have strict regulations. However, social media-minded investors do have a technology expectation: social media, like other (legacy) news distribution channels, will deliver news. Put your news releases into the stream. Nothing more. Your news’ headline, a link to the news release and your $cashtag. Done. At that point, the $cashtag fueled databases and your investors will engage with one another.

Also, your IR department should stop expecting ROI. The “investment” you expend looking for a Return On Investment will be more than the energy spent pushing your news into social media. Besides, what is your investment? Sending a tweet – which can be automated.

This whitepaper download offers a detailed process.

StockTwits is the purest social media network on the planet

Investor Relations Officers don’t realize how lucky they are. StockTwits, by design, is the last unspoiled capital markets social media network.

Objectively, in addition to having a higher apples-to-apples 3x volume of activity compared to Twitter, the network:

  • Is only comprised of members who are interested in capital markets
  • Is proactively monitored to prevent pump-and-dump activity and faux accounts
  • Does not allow discussions of penny stocks or pinks – their $cashtags are not “activated” in the network – which is focused almost exclusively on NYSE and NASDAQ traded equities
  • Feeds into professional and public capital markets research portals

Subjectively, if you review the StockTwits stream, you’ll note that most of the discussion are what an investor is doing now – at that moment. They are not blogging an opinion or analysis, which has negatively permeated many of the long-form blog-based social media channels. The physical limitations of a 140 character micro-blog prevents StockTwits from becoming another ‘stock newsletter” content publisher.

One important disclaimer. Content does drive shareholder communications, which drives shareholder confidence… which drives shareholder value.  The $cashtag is king in social media as it drives investors to your content. 

Have a great day.

 

RegFD faux pas is the least of General Counsel’s social media worries

At this week’s NYSE Governance’s General Counsel Forum, I was fortunate to attend the best social media panel I have ever heard.  And I’ve heard a lot.

Why was it so good?

  • Extremely refreshing to meet General Counsel who embrace social media’s fluidity and who proactively work to mitigate social media risk without neutering it’s potential
  • Reaffirming for the investor relations’ practice that GCs trust IRO’s judgment towards the disclosure of material non-public information via social media
  • Embarrassingly obvious how myopic we “IR service providers” are in regard to social media

Extremely: The number one social media challenge for companies is far from RegFD slip-ups. For social media, GCs are focused on the triage of privacy, ethics and policy management – all to keep their organization from the ever-present microscope of the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB). Social media policies typically restrict what employees can say about their company. However, due to Section 7 protections, the NLRB scrutinizes such policies heavily, especially if a policy infringes upon speech about working conditions. Free and protected speech must be just that. Free and protected. This is the stuff of HUGE lawsuits. Hardly a the blip of a Wells Notice.

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Reaffirming: After the formal presentation, I spoke to GCs about IR. None of them had an iota of anxiety about the disclosure of material non-public information via social media. They all stated that – as far as they were concerned – social media is no different from any other disclosure channel… and that IR knew what was needed in regard to RegFD. To quote: “We can simply protect ourselves with an 8-K if there is an issue.” BAM!

So, what are the shareholder communications take-aways from the session?

  • Monitor the socialsphere. All the GCs on the panel do that within their legal department. They don’t leave it to PR or marketing. This is particularly important to the financial services organizations that are required to act on a “nasty tweet” as a formal customer complaint. GCs recommend using a pay-per product [like our Agility] or free services like Google Alerts.
  • Social media has made crisis communications a real-time event. You cannot sit around for three days and draft an action. You have to work at the speed-of-web. Be cognizant and staffed for that. Don’t hire “college interns” to “do social media.” They will know the technology, but lack maturity.
  • You cannot regulate employees’ social media use. You can guide them, offer true-life examples and explain the risks you are trying to control and how it impacts success – personally and collectively.

Embarrassingly: Is social media important to IR? Yes! No! Maybe! Find the path that works best for your shareholder communications strategies and goals, whether you want core hands-free auto-post tweeting, schedule pre-scripted tweets around the earnings call or fully embrace consistent conversation. Social media channels are far too fluid for any advice to be solid from one week to the next.

  • No matter what else you read, there is only one “IR and Social Media Best Practice” to follow. Use your $cashtag, otherwise you are wasting your time.
  • But, hey, don’t listen to me.

Have a great weekend.

The most thoughtful discussion on social media risk assessment and management

If you want to read only one report on social media and risk, I recommend Accenture’s whitepaper Comprehensive Approach to Managing Social Media Risk Compliance. You can download it here directly from Accenture. You can also watch a few videos from their team discussing the insights.

Their discussion follows exactly the same conversation path at the NYSE boardroom Summit two weeks ago.

The Accenture conversation:

“At issue here is the fact that traditional risk management policies and procedures were not designed for, quite literally, minute-by-minute monitoring of social media chatter to identify brand, strategy, compliance, legal, and market risks.”

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One key takeaway: neither the NYSE Boardroom Summit nor the Accenture report make any judgments about  “should I stay or should I go now” in regard to social media. Social media is a given now. The point is to have a senior level discussion about risks and policies.

Our recommendation for using social media without RegFD concerns can be found here.

Have a great day.

Board members are under a lot of pressure. Sending “Tweets” is not one of them.

The 11th Annual NYSE Boardroom Summit was an exceptional conference. Hundreds of directors, general counsel and compliance officers from hundreds of public companies’ boards assembled to review the essential issues that drove success in 2014 and what will drive success in 2015.

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One point was evident – the board members in attendance have an intense desire to be effective as possible: cyber-security, succession, diversity, culture, activists, crisis preparation, say-on-pay were all on the two-day agenda. The common tread across all these topics was understanding and mitigating risk for company and shareholder alike. You can download the summit handbook here now, courtesy of the NYSE Governance Services team.

One of the most promising sessions (that pertains to this blog) was titled “Social Media and the Changing Landscape of Corporate Disclosure.” Being a noise-maker in the shareholder communications industry, I was looking forward to hearing what boards were doing in regard to social media: 1.) what channels do they use, 2.) what topics do they share, 3.) how they work with the company to assure no material disclosure.

Well, the conference would have none of that. Having directors personally active in outbound social media was never discussed. Not even in the slightest. The dialog was completely focused on the business and risk oversight of the companies’ use of social media. It’s important to emphasize there was not a “should we or shouldn’t we” debate like is still lingering in investor relations. The board was not “against” social media - it’s just not in their sphere of communication responsibilities.

Ironically, these four tweets best summarize the session:

  • Boards’ responsibility is to concentrate on social media risk and policy rather than “tweeting.” #NYSummit
  • Boards to focus on the prevention of the negative rather than the promotion of the positive re: #socialmedia #NYSummit

Have a great day.

Pump-and-dump and revenge porn: twin trolls of different mothers

A recent briefing issued by Gray Reed & McGraw, P.C. highlighted a lawsuit against a social media platform by an individual accusing the platform of being slack in removing a fake profile, built in their name, that was populated with pornographic images. A spiteful ex-lover built the profile: a terrible, manipulative action.

From Gray Reed:

My guess is this case will likely be removed to federal court (both defendants are out of state) and then summarily dismissed… website operators [name] are not liable for the content created by others under the Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

NOTE: The New York Times published an EXCELLENT piece titled Dealing With Digital Cruelty.

Although it pales in comparison (psychological and creepy) –  this mainstream social media lawsuit absolutely reminded me of the recent NanoVircides v Seeking Alpha ruling. NanoVircides asked the court to force Seeking Alpha to disclose the name of an obvious (to most of us in IR) and manipulative stock pumper.

NanoVircides lost, via a core First Amendment Freedom of speech (opinion) position.

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From the Supreme Court of NYS:

It is paramount in an open and free society that we protect the anonymity of those whose “publication is prompted by the desire to question, challenge and criticize the practices of those in power without incurring adverse consequences.”

So, what does this mean for “Investor Relations and Social Media?”

First, it means that the pump-and-dump “conversations” once only held in the deep and creepy board chats are now front and center on mainstream social media platforms. Before “social media,” the lionshare of chat rooms were populated by pumpers happily gaming each another. It was more like gambling than investing. Today, the elevation of these chats into mainstream portals plops the manipulative pump “stock opinions” directly in front of day-traders. Day-traders, although not proactive pumpers, are opportunistic investors.

Second, it means – to quote Talking Heads – same as it ever was. Equities cannot squelch people from expressing their investment “opinions” in social media. Similarly, restaurants and hotels are facing these legal battles over posts in review portals like Yelp and Trip Advisor.

Third, you need to listen to what is being said a bit more. IR – especially micro to small-cap issuers – should set up profiles and alerts in all the stock opinion portals. Begin to understand who the ethical opinion generators are and who the one-pump-wonders are… like the stock pumper that affected NanoVircides. This may begin to help germinate a relationship or at worst… a crisis response strategy.

Fourth, it’s time to stop ignoring social media. If fact, just call it “media.” Sit down with your PR team and make a plan, proactive and reactive. “Media” is not going away.

True, it was once a common and safe strategy to ignore the bulletin board chats… but the inescapable truth of social media is that it is now mainstream for many investors.

Fifth, start building your IR presence NOW. IR should feed the social media portals’ newsflow with your verified and legal-vetted news releases.  This is a safe and simple action.

CLICK HERE to download our whitepaper on how to start building your presence.

NIRI 2014: social media whitepaper (and happy faces part 1)

The National Investor Relations Institute’s 2014 Conference in Las Vegas was a big win for everyone. Sincere thanks to the NIRI organization for hosting yet another successful event. This annual event is one of the few conferences where IR practitioners and service providers meet not just to “buy and sell,” but to have real discussion about the industry and its drivers.

One of the more popular (and appreciated) conversation in our booth was regarding our very practical advice for social media. We ran out of printed copies of current whitepaper that gives guidance for risk-free and hands-free social media for IR: you can download it here.

A few IROs even referenced the social media blog article from last March. That was very complimentary.

Visiting our booth isn’t just about shareholder communications. We squeezed in a little fun too!

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