Category Archives: Social media for IR

Two glass-half-full investor relations lessons from the Twitter early release

Needless to say, yesterday was a bad day for Twitter – and for those of us within the shareholder communications business with empathy. Here is the YAHOO! write-up on the drama. As you’ll read in the Yahoo! article, Twitter is not the first casualty of this type of error.

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Two points:

  • Instead of preemptively issuing your IR website provider a copy of your earnings release for manual set-up and “go live,” enable your IR website to AUTOMATICALLY receive and release material news directly from your newswire provider. This automation prevents the pre-staged “a la’ carte” HTML earnings release webpage from either being hacked or mistakenly taken live.

Automation marks your official newswire powered news release as the core dissemination point for market moving news. Everything else is fed from that: IR site, email alerts, Twitter, StockTwits, RSS, etc. One and done and as simultaneous as the internet can be. Here is a whitepaper that discusses Twitter, StockTwits and your newsflow.

Today, in the IR-product environment, all the IR website vendors have offered news release auto-posting for several years (our IR website solution is called IR Room). It’s not difficult to enable, but it does require configuration and QA testing. Please don’t try to knee-jerk automation in for this quarter.

  • IR departments need to use this as another indication of the strength of social media. It’s unfortunate that it’s a missed expectations example.

Cynically, we could huff this away as another “bad news travels fast in social media” scenario – however, in this case, it is important to understand that (for their marketing purposes I assume) Twitter does not use a newswire – all their material news is sent and $CASHTAGGED via their own network.

Their investor audience was trained, primed and ready to react from any news in their Twitter stream. And react they did. Like it or not, investors are using social media.

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Again, here is a whitepaper that discusses Twitter, StockTwits and your newsflow.

Feel free to dismiss the points above as being newswire biased. The automation feature will prevent this type of error.

Best wishes for a glitch-free earnings season!

What IR and general counsel need to know about Twitter’s new direct message policy change

On Monday, Twitter announced that its direct message (DM) system – which allows connected followers to communicate privately to one another – will now allow anyone to DM to anyone. The pros and cons of this new policy appear to be 50% – 50% from social media pundits.

Investor relations and general counsel need to be aware of this new feature ASAP – especially banks, who have a compliance regulation to report and follow-up on any complaints from their customers… regardless of the media. This point was discussed in depth at the NYSE Governance’s General Counsel Forum.

WHAT THIS MEANS:

Your brand’s Twitter DM can become an inbound box for client (and random) communications even though your corporate Twitter policy is to not “follow back” everyone that follows you. Also, it may become a spam box.

ACTION ITEM:

It’s an optional feature. You can opt-out of this new DM feature. See below. Click to enlarge.

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You may already be opted-out.  Be sure to confirm that.

Please note, I am not evangelizing “do not communicate with investors via social media.”  I am evangelizing “keep your material communications channels organized.”

Have a nice weekend.

We’ve made it even easier for IR to ignore social media

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So, how can investor relations departments assure that their material news is feeding the Twittersphere without having to do extra work? Or any work, for that matter? (We know it’s not a favorite topic.)

INTRODUCING our Auto-Tweet-Synch-Thingy function. Apologies it does have a better name. Here’s how it works:

  • Link up one or more Twitter accounts with your PR Newswire news distribution portal (we call it the Online Member Center – OMC) .
  • As you are uploading your news release for distribution and select your Absolutely Superior newswire and channel distribution choices – you’ll next select the “Post Your Release to Your Twitter Timeline” box.
  • Type or paste in your message. Feel free to keep life simple and paste in your headline.
  • Add your $CASHTAG !!
  • Select one or all of the Twitter account you want to Tweet through.
  • Complete your OMC process.
  • Ta-da.

Your tweet will be sent to your Twitter followers in conjunction with your release being delivered across the PR Newswire network.

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How this helps investor relations departments:

  • Zero effort to place your earnings and financial news into the Twitter news stream
  • Gentle reminder for PR and IR administrators to send the tweet
  • Assures that Twitter-based investors have your official news to share
  • Saves time

Here’s our whitepaper on Twitter and Stocktwits. More and more, getting your news into these streams will matter. Our new Twitter integration helps you with that. There is no extra fee, BTW.

Board Directors now discussing more pro – than con – of social media

This morning’s Vintage-moderated social media discussion at the NYSE Governance Boardroom Summit brought together a room full of general counsel and directors from a wide variety of publicly-listed companies. The discussion was “Social Media: Communications, Compliance or Just Plain Circumspect.”

The conversation began with some basic social media vocabulary (what is a cashtag) but quickly evolved to discussions of policies and risk.

Vintage and PR Newswire partner with the NYSE at all governance summits and with products for their issuers.

Vintage and PR Newswire partner with the NYSE at all governance summits and with investor relations products for their issuers.

The most interesting, if anecdotal, observation is that most directors now understand the potential of social media – not just the risk. Additionally, similar to fall session, the risk is National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) based, not RegFD. Also, in light of the constant influx of social media products (Snapchat, Yik Yak, etc.), there has been a sense of leveling / stabilization of the main channels used by companies.

Bits and bytes:

  • Forget about “control.” Conferring to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), employers’ attempts to control or limit what employees post on social media websites and their personal accounts often violate the employees’ rights to engage in protected activity. Focus on “communications” instead.

Apart from legal guidance, employees need to have transparency intothe company’s goal on why and how social media is being used to promote the business’ goals. Employees need to understand why the policy exists so they treat it with respect and understand the company’s strategy. Also, get them involved…explain how EVERYONE can work to extend the company’s message.

To that, a social media policy needs to outline the company’s social media strategy. At times this means encouraging employees to “retweet” and share the brand’s outreach – other times it emphasizes the negative consequences to the employee of rogue social media posts.

  • Limit official social media policy to communications about company products or services and anti-harassment guidelines. Clarify any discipline.
  • Explain RegD and how the disclosure of confidential, nonpublic information could affect the company’s stock price and investor behavior.
  • Indicate restrictions on the unauthorized use of corporate logos, trademarks and copyrighted material in social media posts.
  • Provide examples of best practices for social media communications. Provide examples of improper social media communications.

The five take-aways where:

  1. Ask to see your companies’ social media policy – like the NLRB example below.
  2. Learn more about social media monitoring. Most all in the room did not realize that there were “single portal tools” like our Agility product (sales pitch) that can parse the web (clear out the noise) for relevant social media content about their companies.
  3. The simple equity monitoring exercise of a cashtag search. NO ONE knew of this.
  4. Meet with General Counsel. Learn what their view on social media is – what tone have they set and if they are unnecessarily hindering communication.
  5. Discover if investor relations have established a presence – especially for crisis communications. Social media accelerates everything.

Lastly, none of the board members in the audience felt it was their role to “tweet.”

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SAMPLE SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY

At [COMPANY], we understand that social media can be a fun and rewarding way to share your life and opinions with family, friends and co-workers around the world. However, use of social media also presents certain risks and carries with it certain responsibilities. To assist you in making responsible decisions about your use of social media, we have established these guidelines for appropriate use of social media.

This policy applies to all associates who work for [COMPANY], or one of its subsidiary companies in the United States [COMPANY].  Managers and supervisors should use the supplemental Social Media Management Guidelines for additional guidance in administering the policy.

Guidelines

In the rapidly expanding world of electronic communication, social media can mean many things.  Social media includes all means of communicating or posting information or content of any sort on the Internet, including to your own or someone else’s web log or blog, journal or diary, personal web site, social networking or affinity web site, web bulletin board or a chat room, whether or not associated or affiliated with [COMPANY], as well as any other form of electronic communication.  The same principles and guidelines found in [COMPANY] policies and three basic beliefs apply to your activities online. Ultimately, you are solely responsible for what you post online. Before creating online content, consider some of the risks and rewards that are involved. Keep in mind that any of your conduct that adversely affects your job performance, the performance of fellow associates or otherwise adversely affects members, customers, suppliers, people who work on behalf of [COMPANY] or [COMPANY’s] legitimate business interests may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Know and follow the rules

Carefully read these guidelines, the [COMPANY] Statement of Ethics Policy, the [COMPANY] Information Policy and the Discrimination & Harassment Prevention Policy, and ensure your postings are consistent with these policies. Inappropriate postings that may include discriminatory remarks, harassment, and threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct will not be tolerated and may subject you to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Be respectful

Always be fair and courteous to fellow associates, customers, members, suppliers or people who work on behalf of [COMPANY]. Also, keep in mind that you are more likely to resolved work-related complaints by speaking directly with your co-workers or by utilizing our Open Door Policy than by posting complaints to a social media outlet. Nevertheless, if you decide to post complaints or criticism, avoid using statements, photographs, video or audio that reasonably could be viewed as malicious, obscene, threatening or intimidating, that disparage customers, members, associates or suppliers, or that might constitute harassment or bullying. Examples of such conduct might include offensive posts meant to intentionally harm someone’s reputation or posts that could contribute to a hostile work environment on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion or any other status protected by law or company policy.

Be honest and accurate

Make sure you are always honest and accurate when posting information or news, and if you make a mistake, correct it quickly. Be open about any previous posts you have altered.  Remember that the Internet archives almost everything; therefore, even deleted postings can be searched. Never post any information or rumors that you know to be false about [COMPANY], fellow associates, members, customers, suppliers, people working on behalf of [COMPANY] or competitors.

Post only appropriate and respectful content

Maintain the confidentiality of [COMPANY] trade secrets and private or confidential information. Trades secrets may include information regarding the development of systems, processes, products, know-how and technology. Do not post internal reports, policies, procedures or other internal business-related confidential communications.

Respect financial disclosure laws. It is illegal to communicate or give a “tip” on inside information to others so that they may buy or sell stocks or securities. Such online conduct may also violate the Insider Trading Policy.

Do not create a link from your blog, website or other social networking site to a [COMPANY] website without identifying yourself as a [COMPANY] associate.

Express only your personal opinions. Never represent yourself as a spokesperson for [COMPANY]. If [COMPANY] is a subject of the content you are creating, be clear and open about the fact that you are an associate and make it clear that your views do not represent those of [Employer], fellow associates, members, customers, suppliers or people working on behalf of [COMPANY]. If you do publish a blog or post online related to the work you do or subjects associated with [COMPANY], make it clear that you are not speaking on behalf of [COMPANY]. It is best to include a disclaimer such as “The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of [COMPANY].”

Using social media at work

Refrain from using social media while on work time or on equipment we provide, unless it is work-related as authorized by your manager or consistent with the Company Equipment Policy.  Do not use [COMPANY] email addresses to register on social networks, blogs or other online tools utilized for personal use.

Retaliation is prohibited

[COMPANY] prohibits taking negative action against any associate for reporting a possible deviation from this policy or for cooperating in an investigation. Any associate who retaliates against another associate for reporting a possible deviation from this policy or for cooperating in an investigation will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Media contacts

Associates should not speak to the media on [COMPANY’S] behalf without contacting the Corporate Affairs Department. All media inquiries should be directed to them.

For more information

If you have questions or need further guidance, please contact your HR representative.

Google + Twitter = more $cashtag visibility for investor relations

Briefly: Google and Twitter just announced that tweets will once again show up in Google search results. What this could mean is $cashtag tweets will reach a new audience of investors that don’t have Twitter accounts. Bing already offers tweets in its search results.

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There’ll be no judgment here whether this is good or bad. That is for your company strategy to decide.

Points to lament:

  • Investors who don’t use Twitter will now have easy visibility into all the Twitter chatter about your stock
  • Stock bloggers and opinion portals will have gained deeper access to investor eyeballs than before
  • Google results will “publish” a true real-time feed on breaking news (and haters) about your stock
  • The “…so, what is our IR & social media strategy?” discussion may arise again within with your senior team
  • You may need to review your social media monitoring strategy – at least benchmark now to see if the Google / Twitter integration has any measurable impact

Regardless of the points above, Twitter is a newsfeed that carries stories about your company. For a clearer understanding of Twitter and StockTwits as it relates to IR, you may find this blog post helpful as well as this whitepaper.

Have a nice day.

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.