Advice: Twitter tips for IR
Q: Do I really need to bother with Twitter?
A: Around half of the 45 mn members who regularly use Twitter are based in the US, but it is really a global phenomenon, and 2009 was a big year for the social networking site. In January the emergency landing of a plane in the Hudson River in New York was first publicized over Twitter. In June the protests in Iran again helped bring Twitter to international attention, when tweets – the 140-character posts on Twitter – distributed by Iranian protesters received widespread publicity.
Actively tweeting may not be for everyone but you should at least read Twitter. With these types of social media, every reader turns into a potential writer or sender of information. The users create their own content, present opinions and discuss with others.
Companies may be wary of the loss of control but if businesses don’t bother with Twitter they don’t know what is being said about them. In the same way that it pays to be aware of rumor and speculation in the financial markets, it is helpful to know what is being said about your company on Twitter. Businesses can use it for monitoring purposes and IR practitioners can gather valuable insight into the share-trading world.
If you decide to actively use Twitter, you should bear in mind a few things. Firstly, there needs to be regularity and continuity. On Twitter, your success or failure largely depends on the trust of your followers (users who have subscribed to your tweets). Delivering regular information and maintaining its quality are crucial to protecting your presence online.
Materiality and relevance are also important: only information that is pertinent to the business should be published. The information you provide on Twitter should be material and consistent with the information you are providing in other outlets, such as on the company website. In fact, by referring followers to your website you can save time; you don’t need to duplicate information.
All shared information should be true and presented promptly, fully and without exaggeration. Misinformation tends to be badly received in social network circles and can seriously undermine all future diplomatic efforts with your audience. A final key point is the one company, one voice strategy: coherent corporate communication needs a social media policy such as you may already have in place for other communication channels.
The cost of using social media is similar to the cost of maintaining a comprehensive website, but can save you work in the long run. The more integrated your approach, the fewer repetitive telephone calls and email questions you can expect. IR managers should join the conversation and learn the game before they have to jump in at the deep end – such as in a crisis situation.