Cheat Sheet: Social Media

Nov 01, 2009
<p>A guide to social media, including the 12 websites ever IR professional should use<strong><br /></strong></p>

Communicating

1. Twitter
Many companies are using Twitter to give a heads-up about press releases or other announcements made on their websites. Well-known users include Barrick Gold, Shell, Dell, Johnson & Johnson, eBay and Sun Microsystems.

Social marketing logosExperts agree Twitter should not be used to disclose material information. But they also agree that a one-way stream of announcements and links is missing the point of Twitter. They recommend ‘retweeting’ – reposting a third-party tweet so your followers can see it – and using the @reply function to respond directly to comments or questions.

2. SlideShare
Think YouTube for slide presentations: you upload a slide deck to SlideShare and embed the code on your own site. Third parties including bloggers can then embed your presentation on their sites, too, and it becomes grouped and searchable on SlideShare. The website even has an investor relations category.

One key advantage of using SlideShare is that, as the author, you retain authority over your content. A downloadable PowerPoint presentation or even a PDF could be altered or redistributed, but that couldn’t happen to a SlideShare presentation with the download option turned off.

3. Docstoc or Scribd
Similar to SlideShare, but used for sharing documents. Docstoc has an annual report section that contains well over 2,000 entries, some of which have been viewed thousands of times. The site lists reports according to categories such as most viewed, most downloaded, and so on.

4. LinkedIn
A sort of MySpace network for grown-ups. Once you have signed up and created your profile, people can start inviting you to link with them (and their existing contacts) based on your name, company or other details from your profile. LinkedIn is best used to forge professional contacts.

5. ShareThis
The little green ShareThis button has started to appear on investor relations website pages. It lets visitors quickly and easily share a link to a web page via email or any number of social media channels, including Twitter.

6. Blogs
Only a handful of public companies are blogging from an investor relations perspective, with Dell, eBay and Sun Microsystems paving the way. What’s the difference between a blog and other regular shareholder communications you post on your corporate website? A blog is usually written in the first person – and readers can post comments on what you say.

Monitoring

7. Search.twitter.com
As a good starting point, check out Twitter’s own search tool. Type your company name into www.search.twitter.com and see what results appear.

8. Social Mention
This site is recommended as an easy yet powerful way to monitor what’s being said about your company across various platforms. You can set up keyword searches of blogs, Twitter or other social media, and receive email alerts.

9. Seeking Alpha
The largest financial blog aggregator, with hundreds of blogs by ex-analysts, professional investors and fund managers, moderated by the site’s own editors. The reach is huge: Seeking Alpha is also distributed through Yahoo! Finance.

10. StockTwits
A trading-focused social network based on Twitter. Any time you do a tweet with a $ and stock symbol, it gets aggregated on StockTwits. People use it to track their stock portfolios, although it’s said to be more for traders than for long-term investors.

11. Twitscoop
This is an advanced way to monitor interest in your own Twitter output. Use this site to see how many click-throughs are being received by links imbedded in your tweets, for example.

Twitscoop also searches through all the activity on Twitter to produce a tag-cloud, showing what the hot topics and trends are in real time. Words in the cloud grow and shrink depending on their popularity.

12. Wikinvest
A wiki-based (meaning users can contribute and edit the content) financial portal with highly interactive, modular data presented in interesting ways. Like Seeking Alpha, Wikinvest has an editorial team that makes sure information is valid while helping to control quality. Interestingly, each of the individual charts on Wikinvest can be embedded on a third-party site, such as a blog.

Setting policy

Are your employees or maybe even your executives using blogs or Twitter? If so, you need to be mindful of the disclosure risks. Check out some of these foresighted policies:

  • IBM social computing guidelines, covering ‘blogs, wikis, social networks, virtual worlds and social media’, were developed by IBM folks themselves using a wiki.
  • Cisco’s internet postings policy accepts comments, just like a blog.
  • Intel’s social media guidelines promote the use of social media, rather than discourage it.
  • Sun guidelines on public discourse are user-friendly.
  • Dell Shares, the technology company’s IR blog, has its own set of terms and conditions.
  • Finally, eBay’s lawyers have devised four legal disclaimers for use when it live-tweets company events.

IR blogs and Twitter streams

Many in the investor relations community are adopting a wait-and-see approach to social media. Here are some examples of people sticking their necks out and giving it a go:

  • Dell Shares is one of the best examples of blogging by an IR department. Dell’s IR team uses the site to address issues of performance and strategy, as well as respond to questions from the investment community.
  • Richard Brewer-Hay, eBay’s blogger-in-chief, live-tweets company events like analyst days and earnings calls.
  • Patrick Kiss, head of IR and PR at German mid-cap Deutsche EuroShop, comments on the latest social media trends through his Twitter feed.
  • NIRI has a Twitter stream and CEO Jeff Morgan maintains a weekly ‘president’s blog’ on all things IR.
  • Sandy Beall, Ruby Tuesday’s CEO, caused a stir in the IR world when his tweet almost gun-jumped around a share offering.
  • In search of blogging CEOs? Check out Jonathan Schwartz at Sun Microsystems and Tom Glocer at Thomson Reuters.
  • Here at IR magazine, we have no issue with shameless self-promotion, so do take a look at our blog and our Twitter stream to stay abreast of the latest investor relations news and views.
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