The discussion of social media’s place within shareholder communications is a never ending conversation – and much of the conversation seemed to be polarized between the true believers and the adamant nay-sayers.
Below is the transcript from the event. A video synopsis is available here.
Hello everybody - My name is Chal Fitzpatrick - I'm with PR Newswire. Thank you all for coming. We're really excited to host our first event. It's very informal as you can see here and we want it to be very interactive.
Many of you are PR Newswire clients of ours. About two years ago PR Newswire created a vertical called "Investor Relations and Compliance". Through an acquisition that we made -- a company called "Vintage Filings" -- we now can offer one-stop-shopping for all of a company's investor relations and compliance needs. An example is the company may use PR Newswire for it's press releases, another company for its SEC filings, financial printing, another provider for it's SEC webcasts and a fourth provider for IR room hosting. That's something that we can do all in-house. A lot of folks on the West Coast are not aware of this vertical we created a year and a half ago called "IR and Compliance". So we're here today to start to promote that and to do some business development as it touches investor relations, finance and legal primarily. We wanted to put a venue together and a topic that sort of touches all of those areas.
I was speaking with Steven Spector and we talked about social media being a potential idea. It's one of those areas that does permeate all of those different departments so I'm going to let Amy at Cooley actually introduce the panel but I just wanted to thank everybody and introduce the PR Newswire people. We have Jane Booth who is an Account Manager in San Diego, Chris Brimble, PR Newswire. We have Sharon Johnson who is New Business Development in San Diego and two of our Sales Reps in our Vertical - the IR and Compliance vertical - Lauren Brown and Jeff Poley. Lauren - I want to say 'thank you'; she picked the venue, she put this on. She did the event. So thank you so much Lauren.
HOST: Chal Fitzpatrick, VP, PR Newswire – Vintage Filings
We put this together in conjunction with the Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals and Randy Clark (President of the Chapter – Corporate Secretary of Sempra Energy) – thank you – and also the San Diego NIRI chapter which Jane Booth of PR Newswire is on the board so thank you NIRI, Corporate Secretaries, the Society and Cooley is also a sponsor. They are helping us with picking up the cost for this; so thank you Cooley. And I’m going to turn it over to Amy to introduce our panelists. Amy Wood is the VP and Program chair for the Southern CA chapter and Keith is the membership chair (Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals)
Amy Wood: Michelle Mueller is the VP of External Affairs (for San Diego Gas & Electric) and even if your companies haven't yet adopted social media to the extent that San Diego Gas & Electric has, you will identify with Michelle's story because it's something near and dear to all San Diegans.
Next, Francis Costello is the Chief Operating Officer of Stock Twits and very interesting organization (if you're not familiar yet ) that works with all sorts of social communications for the markets and investing. In some sense, Francis has the investor side perspective to bring to us and let us know what competitors are doing in terms of reaching investors and the social media aspect of investor relations to the extent that that's not something you fully embrace.
Karen Fisher will moderate for us this evening. I've had the pleasure to work with Karen in a variety of capacities over the years. Karen's background touches on pretty much every topic we will cover today with having been in-house with a number of different public companies doing investor relations, regulatory experience, investment banking experience and Karen is now the President of "Forum Tools" and Managing Director of the "Shareholder Forum" which is all about communication and identification of stockholders.
With that I will turn it over to Karen.
Karen Fisher: Thank you so much for attending our party because that's exactly what we're going to do tonight. How many of the companies here tonight do have a social media presence? Can I see some hands? Good - so cool. There are a number of companies out there that are just doing an absolutely fabulous job and we've got two companies with us tonight on the panel who are just really experts and I'm really anxious for you to hear their stories. Before we get started, let me just have a few words: There's no doubt that compliance and regulatory concerns are really slow to the adoption of social media; particularly for publicly-traded companies and in many industries. What we're currently seeing is that Chief Marketing Officers and sales executives really are the driving force behind social media. And a lot of companies are taking some lessons from their Marketing and Communications divisions on exactly how they're doing social media and how it can be adopted for publicly-traded companies.
So one of the industries that actually is pretty far ahead of the curve is actually the insurance industry which is using it to build its client practices as well as for networking. And that's pretty interesting. But tonight we're actually going to hear from a major utility and also from a company that aggregates data and works with a number of issuers on social media.
Before we begin, I actually pulled a couple of statistics. Is anyone familiar with the company "Q4 Web Systems"? They're just doing a fabulous job out there in tracking how publicly-traded companies are using social media. Just recently - June of this year - they pulled together a survey which is an update from a survey they did in 2010. They surveyed over 800 companies - some of which were utility companies. So I have some statistics here that might be of interest. 63% of the companies that they surveyed uses Twitter for investor related materials. 40% used Facebook for investor related materials, 44% used Slideshare for investor related materials. Anyone use Slideshare? That's a pretty cool tool out there. If you haven't checked into it, you might want to. 29% use YouTube - again for investor related materials. 18% use a corporate blog for investor related materials, 88% have a company page on LinkedIn. 64% of the companies are listed on Stock Twits, 65% of companies have their social media links on their corporate website, and 32% of companies have a social media summary page that helps users find the appropriate feed or the page.
Two companies in particular that I know of is Cisco and Polycom. Both of their social media programs were started by the same individual which is Laura Graves and she's just really excellent in this capacity.
So let me turn the conversation over to Michele from Sempra. She has some great information to share with you about what's going on at Sempra.
Michele Mueller/VP External Affairs - Sempra Energy & Southern CA Edison Company: It's always interesting when I come and talk to groups like this about social media because often when I'm going out and talking to an investor committee or talking to Corporate Secretary organizations and so on -- they go, "Yes, yes, we have the Marketing group that does this and Customer Service that does this, but it really doesn't impact our world."
So -- anyone heard of a company called Goldman Sachs? They did not have a policy or plan in place to address if someone should put out information that was negative about them in an investor sense that would be spread over Twitter. It took them more than 40 hours to respond to information that was given to the Wall Street Journal. Does anyone want to give me an estimate of what their market cap loss was in that 40 hour period? Just over $2 billion dollars. The reason I bring that up is that social media is not something for your marketing department or just your marketing departments or just your customer service. In looking at social media, it can have a dramatic and immediate impact on your stock price and the perception that companies and investors have about you.
PANELIST: Michelle Mueller, VP External Affairs, San Diego Gas & Electric
And not just the information you’re putting out, but it’s key to be having a monitoring service and to keep an eye 7/24 on what people are saying about you on social media. Let me give you some examples. I was just at a conference and we were looking at the penetration of social media in terms of how people get news. (12:58) For 18-34 year olds, more than half of their news tips and information come from Twitter. Okay, we’re talking about 140 characters. It spreads like wildfire. There was a part-time Nanny in New York who stopped Bank of America’s $3 additional fee — all done through social media. Bank of America did not pick up on it for almost two days.
So looking at your own information that you're trying to get out there, remember that it's no longer something where we put out press releases or we make announcements and everyone reads them. Often we can find ourselves in a situation where we're playing catch up or we may not know about news that has been released. It's been fascinating for us because at SDG&E (one of two Fortune 500 companies as far as Sempra here in San Diego in 2011, we had 76,000 mentions on social media. And so we track and respond and get back to customers. We have to track down rumors.
There's been such a change in terms of how media works today, that you really have to keep track because your story is being told by other people on social media. You have to be out there; tracking it and also making sure you're building your image while you're there.
Let me give you a real life example from SDG&E. How many of you remember where you were on September 8th of last year? Let me remind you - blackout. So we went from having power in the entire service territory at 3:37pm to by 3:39 having the entire service territory out. Cell towers were out, as in quick made phone calls; whether they be made from smart phones, the computers didn't work, a lot of companies lost all of their phone switches. The amount of voice track that tried to go across meant that nothing worked for 30 minutes. We never had something like that in the 138 years of the company's existence. So here we are, the television stations are down; there's one radio station operating and we're Number 1 - trying to get information and Number 2 - we're trying to get out to people. At 3:37 that day we had 1700 followers on Twitter. Within 12 hours we had 18,000 followers on Twitter.
The reason for that being; it was literally the only channel that was working for communications besides text messaging on smart phones. Everything else was down. So in the course of that 12 hours we put out 155 tweets; giving status updates about what sections were being restored, what the causes were of the outage. They were actually running our Tweets live for the few people able to get television. They were running them live across the bottom as a crawl on television screens and it was literally how we were getting all of the information out. What's really interesting about that is that the story unfolds, we were able to get the first information out within 14 minutes of the blackout. And believe it or not, we had a number of people who said that was way too long; that we should have had something out within 2 minutes. I'll be honest -- we didn't know in 2 minutes how big the outage was and how much had gone down.
For us in the 14 minutes, we were confirming the facts that we were able to handle it and get that done. But the other interesting thing about Twitter is customers were using it as 2-way communication. They were sending us information via Twitter about impacts in their neighborhoods. They were telling us - could we get in touch with the police in terms of situations that were going on. And always remember that social media, unlike most of the communications we've done, is 2-way. As you are going into social media, don't do that unless you're able to handle those 2-way communications. Let me give you an example: If you look at our Twitter stream for the last 24 hours, three people had natural gas leaks. They did not call us, they sent out tweets. "Hey, I have a natural gas leak, someone at SDG&E, can you take care of it?" Okay, your house might blow up and you're tweeting it, have you called us?
What we do is we have people monitoring the Twitter feed 7/24, we identify messages like that, we do a DM - a direct message to them to get them back in touch with us so we can dispatch somebody immediately.
One of the things I should say is that we had attorneys present immediately. The question was - "In 14 minutes, what could we say?" We were uniquely responsible in terms of the statements we were putting out. And this is key for all of you is you better be like this with your law departments, because remember, a Twitter response is forever. And it is part of your record. So in 14 minutes we were able to tweet out - "Appears to be system-wide outage, more to come." Because the key is it's not that people expected complete answers, they at least wanted us to tell them that yes, in fact, a whole bunch of people were out. And we had both our Customer Communications group and our Media Relations group - we did a whole scenario laying out what messages we would put out when. And then we teamed with the County office of Emergency Services so that we would re-tweet each other's messages because we had different distribution lists - but you have to make sure it's accurate.
When I look at what happened with Goldman Sachs, if I look at what happened with some of the issues at Bank of America, you have to respond faster today, than you've ever had to respond before.
Let me give you another example that happened to us about 18 months ago. I'm online and all of a sudden something posts on the Union Tribune that says that 'SDG&E has hired a high powered Chicago firm to come and deal with fire issues.' I'm in charge of that department. I have no idea what they're talking about. And I mean it's online, it's been posted. We never got a phone call, nobody ever checked with us which by the way I have to tell you is not unusual. So I'm thinking, "Did corporate hire someone and not tell me?" Turns out no. It was a mistake made by a Reporter who shall remain nameless and because of the speed of trying to break a story before anybody else does, speed will often override facts. But because I was there and I got a Google alert within about 30 seconds of the posting, we were able to get the story retracted, we were able to get a correction from the agency that had issued the release and get that all fixed. But it took us about an hour and a half to do that. Meanwhile, it's being re-tweeted. So we were able to track it and get corrections put in throughout. But we just had literally put in Google Alerts right before then. I mean it had been up for about a week.
So you've got to recognize that there are several companies that will track all of your social media and give you feedback and alerts, we also have a separate system that tracks threats that are made through social media and it's interesting what people will say when they think you can't find them. And let me clear, generally we can find them. But it's so important to monitor that and be aware of it. But for you, recognize that if you're not having social media issues now, it's really been pretty quiet - enjoy that - it will be over soon. As people become more and more comfortable with putting that information out and also asking you questions, they expect you to respond, they expect you to be right, and most importantly - they expect you to be fast. So be sure you build that in as you're making your approach and making the changes you need to make.
Francis Costello/COO/StockTwits: Stock Twits is a specialized network where people talk about markets and investments; so it's 140 character formats, people share links. Think of it if you haven't been there; it's Twitter, but it's organized not just by people, but by stocks. By using a convention we call the 'cash tag' which is $ -- AAPL, this is about Apple the stock, not about Apple's products or I had an apple for lunch, or whatever someone else may say in social media. And so when we were putting together this panel, Karen asked the question, "What are investors doing on social media?". The simple flip answer is that investors are doing the same thing on social media that they're doing everywhere else. They're trying to make money. But the way they've done that has evolved. We've been around for a little over three years. Early on it was essentially our founder and a bunch of his friends building a virtual trading room. 10 years ago; 20 years ago - if you were a trader, you got a trading room and sit on a floor and traded rumors and you discussed what's going on in the markets, right? And yes, you had your ticker and press wire and all of the other things to get some information, but you'd be on the phone and you'd be making calls and you'd be figuring out what's going on and you'd be sharing with other people who are trading in your securities. That happens now globally 24/7 and virtually.
It started 10 years ago with instant messaging. If you traded oil futures 10 years ago and you weren't on AOL instant messaging, you were out of the market. You couldn't do it. And so now you've got these public Twitter-style boards where people are following each other, they're following stocks, they're interactive. So early on, like a lot of these technologies, it's more consumers; it's people who aren't regulated who go onto these networks because they don't have to worry about it. Or it's people who are regulated who are on these networks before their companies realize they shouldn't be there. That's grown and grown and grown now we have thousands and thousands of messages every day. On an average 30-day period, we have comments about 3500 securities that have active conversations on our platform about their stock. And that's just covering -- we don't cover OTC -- so that's just NYSE, Nasdaq and Toronto Stock Exchange securities.
And those people are talking about those stocks. Now, a whole lot of people are contributing ideas, traders and different types and then there's another group - who are listening - so if you talk to the specialists in social media; say Fred Wilson who's a well known investor in New York , early investor in Twitter from Union Square Ventures. He's got a very popular blog if you're into the venture community called AVC. He's got kind of a formula which holds pretty well - which is 1/10/90. So in a typical social network, one percent create the content, ten percent interact with the content - they re-tweet it, they like it, they somehow accelerate that content out in the world, but 90-percent just watch. So after the last three years, what investors have started doing with social media, particularly the investors I think most in this room care more about - the hedge funds, the institutional investors, is they listen.
There have been probably 20 startups founded in the last six months in the big data space to analyze social media and develop sentiment or signal or other things where investors and news organizations and other people who want to know when that story breaks -- and potentially know before Michelle that there's a power outage in San Diego and certainly know before Goldman Sachs knows. And they're listening and they're saying how do I take this and add this to whatever my style is. If you go into a typical bank today, in a lot of cases, some social media are blocked. Guess what, it's not blocked on the iPad that's sitting on the desk next to that trader's PC, or on the iPhone. We see people; we kind of catch people from institutions all the time that are like- "Oh, this is you, isn't it?"
Increasingly, they're saying, "How do I take this data and overlay with however I think about my investing styles?" Right - If I'm a chartist or a swing trader, I'm going to do that. And that's what a lot of the people who are actively talking are. But if I'm a fundamental hedge fund; long/short, I'm going to say, "How do I take trending tickers from social media and overlay that to my watch list? Because that may influence whether I'm getting heavier in position, or lighter or what I think is going on or let's move me a little bit ahead of the flow in this stock.
So it's really interesting to see over the last year as this has become more and more of an expectation, what's going on. The other thing you see is just that every day users are starting to see this as another source of information One of the things that's happened over the last 12-18 months is that Stock Twits - essentially - our people talking create these streams of a social conversation around a stock. It's the human ticker. Right; there's the price ticker, the volume ticker and there's a human ticker. And those tickers and those streams of commentary are showing up in lots of interesting places.
So CNBC uses our Heat Map which you can see on our website via a little button called 'Signals' at the top, that shows price overlaid with social conversation. So big in Red - bad -- big in Green - good. And they put that up on TV. Once a day, every 3-4 days, but even twice a day. Because they're looking for stories; they're looking for ways to drive that conversation. They're looking for where is someone talking about that Goldman Sachs story or that SDG&E story.
And that human ticker stream is on Yahoo!, it's on CNN Money, it's on MSN Finance, again it's another data point now for investors to say, "What are people saying about this stock - not just what's the market saying about the stock price, but what is the company saying through their press releases, what is the news media saying through what they're putting out in formal news, what are bloggers saying putting out from blogs? I think the other interesting thing that investors use social media for is the same thing that I think many of us use social media for; at least I do, is it's the new News Reader.
Right - I get - I get my news through Twitter -- there's so much stuff out there; I figure out what to read through the people I follow on Twitter for general news. I figure out what to read about markets and investing through the people I follow on Stock Twits. And that phenomena is not something that's changing- it's social curation -- because it's just too much.
Right - you used to trust the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or somebody else to curate for us. But increasingly we're trusting the individuals I'm watching with time and decide whether I trust. And I think just like Michelle said, it's increasingly important that if you are the official voice of one of these stories, that you are one of the sources that they trust and follow. (28:47) Because that means your message is going to be in that.
That means that people who believe in your story in a positive sense have your ammunition to share amongst the noise. That's what we see investors doing with social media. It's incredibly interesting the people who are picking up the phone and calling and saying, "How do we get this data - that we can use it?" We have a couple of hedge funds; who are licensing our data already. We have this huge number of people doing quantitative analysis looking to get their data and obviously distribution on these portals.
People want to get a sense of social sentiment. And I don't know if they're going long or short what people are staying on the street -- I don't know what they're doing with it, but it is an input and I think just like for customer service or anywhere else, it's important to be part of that input.
Karen Fisher: I think the general thing I'm taking away from both of your comments is #1 is social media is here to stay. It depends on our organizations, it depends on how we're using it is really the name of the game. And Francis to your comments, you know what do we call exactly what's going on with the collection of data by investors?
An old term - mosaic - right, they're putting together the mosaic. And they have more elements of data now to layer on top. What they're doing is building a story and making informed decisions on investing, right? That's really what it boils down to.
Conversely, we talk about a utility, and you brought up a very good point in that when you're talking about utilities - I have a very good friend who works for the Orange County Water District. She is doing Social Media all of the time; she's on Twitter, she's on Facebook, but she's also focused on education; consumer education. - And with Michele, absolutely, she's communicating information out and trying to respond to data.
It's a little bit different in a publicly traded world. I want to introduce Steve Przesmicki who is with Cooley, he is our resident social media legal guru today. And if I can have Steve come up, because I'm sure he probably has some comments about social media and some of the client questions that you might have had over the last year. I'd really like to hear the perspective from a legal standpoint.
Steve Przesmicki: Love being on the spot. So with the prevalence of social media it is becoming a topic of conversation among all of our clients. As these folks all demonstrate. And the overlay for our world is the use of social media in compliance with the regulatory infrastructure particularly for public companies -- that the insider trading restrictions and Reg FD in particular. There have been some highly publicized instances where CEO's have sort of gone beyond the confines of what the people within their organizations would have liked them to do in terms of tweeting for example to promulgate or they think promulgate in a public way information about their company. And it's kind of a combination of what Michelle discussed and what Francis discussed.
The real issue that we see for at least our corporate clients is the concern of controlling the messaging from the people that are within the organization that are pushing data out. And I think the real risk is the fact that social media today sometimes - appears to be so informal, that it often lulls people into a false sense of security that they are able to distribute information or use that medium to distribute information in a way that is contrary to what they have done historically with traditional media. And what I mean by that is all of the formal structures and rigors that you put over your disclosure of information. For example, a press release doesn't go out of a company without being reviewed by IR, legal, probably 2-3 other organizations. While at the same time, somebody might turn to Twitter and think they can just shoot out a tweet without having to go through those same processes. And so in part it's an education process within organizations really to make sure people have the mindset that just because social media is a somewhat informal and one-to-one communication directly with the consumers in 2-way it is still very much a public distribution of information and that the procedures and policies that you apply to the distribution of this information are the same that you apply to website disclosures, press releases, investor relations conferences, or investor conferences and the like. Those are some of the main issues that we see companies getting involved with.
Karen Fisher: Thank you Steve. Steve's comments really bring up a very good point and that is about social media policies, social media strategies and what to think about before you actually launch a social media program. So Michele I'm going to turn to you because I know you've gone through this. When we were doing our prep call on Monday, she voluntarily said, "Before we even voluntarily did anything, it took us like a year to think it through. We just couldn't move because of the issues that continued to come up.
Michele Mueller: And for those of you who don't have social media, or who are what I could call 'infant' in social media, really recognize that when you go out there you are making a commitment. Let's say you put up a Facebook page, and somebody looks at it maybe an hour a day. It's part of the 2-way communication. As people are posting comments and information on your website, they expect a response. And that's one of the reasons it took us time. We wanted to make sure when we launched our Facebook page, we had the appropriate content; that we had in place 7/24 monitoring to be able to respond and take the action that needs to be taken.
Third we wanted to make sure that we integrated with our other social media, because we do Twitter, we have YouTube videos, we do blogs, we have a lot of information out there on different programs. That's all got to align before you go out there. Because if you go out there and you're not responding, you will start getting trashed through social media because this is a fake site. This is a site you're not paying attention to and you don't want to listen. And social media is one where they're very unforgiving. And you end up with comments and feedback that is not what you want to have out there. Remember it's visible to everybody. So you've really got to be careful about it.
Some of the sites that do an excellent job are the Mayo Clinic, it's a phenomenal site and they've done very, very well with that. I thing Procter & Gamble as a Company. If you look at their individual brand websites and what they do for social media, they quite frankly have hundreds of people per brand that manage their social media activities. So remember, they're talking worldwide. You're talking about ten brands, each of which is worth more than $1 billion dollars. And so you've got to make that commitment. It's better to not have a Facebook page. It's better to have a tiny webpage with no commitment, no assumption you're going to be out there -- so you've got to make sure it's manned.
Number two - you got to refresh it. You can't put it up and go 'whew', we're done - somebody's going to read it and we never have to change the site again. It gets stale and if you want people to keep visiting it and learning more about what you have to offer, it's got to change, it's got to be refreshed.
Third - I'm going to go back to the attorneys, very, very key that you have materials reviewed. But now I'm going to throw a softball at the attorneys which is - when you embark on social media, make sure you have in place, policies that you can respond fast. The amount of time that it has taken some companies that are new to social media, to get a response out on something that is very harmful to the company. People will approach it like a press release -- "Okay we have 16 organizations that can review this. We should have this done by end of the day Friday." You can't do that. Once you engage in the social media market, once people are talking about you - you've got to get all of those people aligned and responding quickly on an issue that has a real impact on the future of your company.
If I can point on an example that we're all on the peripheral, Southern California Edison is dealing with a phenomenal number of issues right now on the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. If you look at the Twitter volume that's been going on in social media, it's been phenomenal. They have done a good job of getting out there working with their attorneys, working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to get appropriate information in a timely fashion. That takes a lot of commitment. So you want to make sure you've got that in place.
Another key element. You can't re-use the same stuff you use internally that's very formal. Social media is a much less formal market, it's a much less formal communication arena. So if you were to roll out the same kind of speech that you did for your annual meeting, that doesn't cut it. You have to take that information and you've got to condense it. We are now dealing with a whole audience of readers and people who are looking at us -- who only read bullet points - who have very short attention spans.
So you've got to get those key points out there; you've got to make sure your social media is designed for the audience that you're trying to reach.
We've become a nation of skimmers. How many of you don't open an attachment on your email, because it takes too much time? If it's not in that first paragraph, you're done. How many of you don't click on a link because doggone it it's Adobe and it's going to take a long time to open? That's the kind of audience we're dealing with, so you have to design your materials so that you can get those key points across.
The other key element to remember for all social media is pictures are worth any number of words. If you've got a good picture and a short caption, you can get their attention and maybe get them to look at another screen. But you've got to make it simple, you've got to make it user-friendly.
You've got to test it with the social media audience. Let me be blunt with everybody here. We are not the target audience. We are reaching out to an audience that reads less than we do, that spends way more time on line than we do. As a matter of fact, a scary number that I just got at a conference: 26% of people spend their online time online time on social media. Only 8% spend time on email. Think about how much we spend on email? No, no much more engaged on what's happening on Facebook, what's happening on Twitter, what's happening on Instagram, what's happening with all of the other new tools that are coming out.
Did you know that Instagram was much faster growing than Facebook because teenagers have discovered that if they do their images - they'll type their message, take a picture with Instagram and send it to their friends because their parents can't see it. That's why Facebook bought them. It was a way to get around parental controls.
So make sure that you know the market you're going into; study it, write for it appropriately. But make sure you're right before you go out there because a bad start will haunt you for a long time.
Karen Fisher: Thank you Michelle. So Francis I want to turn to you. And really the question needs to be asked. Is social media appropriate for everyone, for al l companies? And if not, why not?
Francis Costello: I think eventually it will be so the financial services industry we just talked about - finance and investor relations and those things; they are regulated; I think you have to be ready to do it. But at the end of the day, every piece of research says that investors judge companies by how good a communicator they are. And all of the stats Michelle was talking about - if you're 18-34 or maybe 28, who by the way are going to be all of the fund managers in ten years - or already in many cases. They judge good communications as using these tools because they're the ones that think that people in their own organizations who aren't on the corporate version of Twitter or who aren't using Twitter are not communicating with them.
So to some extent whether you're an industrial products company or a utility, or you're Pepsi, it's just as important for this mode of communication, because that's what they consider good communication. Now clearly on the adoption curve, we very clearly see people with established corporate social media programs because they often are the driver who are bringing Investor Relations in and saying this is another way to reach our folks. Consumer products, it's obviously much more valuable because there's the high overlap between a retail investor base and customers which applies whether you're a tech company like eBay, or Dell or a consumer products company like Pepsi.
Depending on who your investor base is, there's going to be higher or lower adoption of using these tools so in the short term, there's probably different priorities when you ask that question, but in the long term it's kind of like if you went back 15 years ago and said, "Well there's probably some companies wondering if an Investor Relations website is going to be right for them, and some where they probably won't need that, right? And we can probably find somebody asking that question; I don't know if it was 15-20 years ago, but some time ago. I think it's going to become part of the fabric, it's become part of the fabric on some things like customer service and others already. And again, they move faster because they have less friction.
We have a lot more friction in this space. You know, if you are a sell-site analyst, (I know because we're helping people get on social media), it's actually really hard. They have not only lawyers but they have more stuff than the Investor Relations professionals deal with. If you're an Investment Advisor, it's even worse.
But they are all solving the problem and so I don't think there is a group where you can say this is not for them. For all of the reasons we're talking about. There's definitely going to be some barriers for different groups. There are different adoption curves for different markets.
Michelle: I'm going to give you two examples of a different slant we haven't talked about and that's YouTube. Which is we're seeing a real metamorphosis happening right now in terms of corporations jumping in and using YouTube to get their message across directly. But we're also finding activists using YouTube as a way of really generating a lot of pressure on companies.
So I'm going to give you two YouTube videos to look at. Number one - go to YouTube and look for the video Ken, Barbie and Greenpeace. I'm not going to tell you what's in the video, I'm just going to tell you that Mattel changed it's packaging policy in two days. But you need to see the video and how they approached it because it's a really good example of an activist group doing some really smart stuff to force the change they wanted.
Second, I think some of you are aware; there's been some issues with the Duke-Progress merger, acquisition etc. And the new Chairman - there was a lot going on with that - just released a YouTube video explaining the process and what's going on. And this is something we're seeing a real increase in literally in the last 60 days of the heads of the corporations and the heads of the organizations going to YouTube and producing something that lays out their story directly for their audiences. The Ken, Barbie and Greenpeace one- last I looked it was six million views.
Karen: I want to open up questions to the audience.
Audience member: We've been hearing a lot about (large corporations). I think most of us here are small-cap, micro-cap, limited budgets, we're the IR team for the whole company, can't do all of these things. So we're trying to figure out - how does this relate to a micro-cap company that doesn't have the budget - who's struggling to reap profitability. What do we do? Bring it down to our level; forget about Procter & Gamble. Does anyone here have the market cap of Procter & Gamble. What do we do if we have a market cap of $100M or less?
Karen: Your question is appropriate and that really goes back to - is social media for everyone and can you be responsive once you start dipping your toe into that social media pond?
Francis: So it's interesting; we find that the people who are using social media most actively fall actually at the two ends of the spectrum - it's very large caps are the big social media organizations that can do this in a certain way and are focussed on social media. But it's also folks in the small cap market because small caps need a way to tell their story and to some extent, the unique approach can cut through.
We've definitely seen - you can set expectations; particularly the investor community is a little different than say customer service or other areas. You can set expectations of what you're going to do on social media. Because it is investor relations - Investors are used to calling and not getting kind of not responsive answers because of Reg FD when they ask a question that hasn't already been answered, and similar things to that. So most users of our platform do limited things first, right - they monitor, they send out existing information to make sure that this new channel knows about the stuff you're putting out through other channels and that it can be forwarded and re-tweeted. They focus on their super bowl events, their social media is talking about them; which for investor relations is earnings and the annual meeting. So how do we make sure that the time that people are paying attention to our company
What we're seeing a lot of people doing maybe 10-20 messages that are going to go out on a scheduled basis during that earnings call; that's a slightly informal version of the stuff you've already approved.
So there's definitely ways to do it. It's like anything else in that it's about allocation of resources; spending time. There are ways to do it without adding a huge burden to the organization and that's about smart partners that help you do it and figuring it out. It's a challenge; there's no easy answer.
Michelle: Number one, just start by watching. Google alerts are free. So that way you can start seeing. Number 2 - website - Number 3- there are a number of agencies in town to help launch an investor tweet stream that's not designed for the general audience. The other point is if you're going to any big shows or presentations like that, you don't have to set up your own twitter stream, you can do that through the organization that's holding the conference. So and so announces new product, put it here - and it takes to your website.
Start seeing who's watching you first, what's being said about you, then start looking at your website, and then start looking at what else can you piggy-back on to get that word out.
Chris: Setting up entire online community –
Michelle: There are several organizations in town that already do that. In fact many of the small companies that want to --and they will sponsor an online blog or chat site. Actually it's part of the website. And so they develop the community there, they sponsor it, people will exchange ideas back and forth. I think it's a great idea, but the cool thing is you don't have to do all social media at once. Start first -- we have some sub-sites, around specific product or idea or specific campaign. And that's more controlled and leaves us a lot of the same feedback we get though social media. And that by the way is very inexpensive. We set up online channels, we give people gift certificates to participate and we get great feedback for that. They give us feedback on advertising, they give us feedback on the names of some of the programs we have out there.
The nice thing about San Diego is that because we have so many small companies, there is a whole community of agencies, PR clubs, that are designed to work with small companies.
Have a great day.