Investors expect ‘Twitter activism’

Nov 11, 2013
<p>Majority of survey respondents believe activists will utilize social media to target companies, finds FTI Consulting study</p>

Four in five investors believe that shareholder activists will increasingly turn to social media – and especially Twitter – in order to target and put pressure on companies, reports FTI Consulting.

In the firm’s most recent Digital engagement study, FTI sets out to explore the increased role of digital and social communications between investors, companies and the financial media.

The findings question whether companies are employing sufficient ‘digital defense’ strategies. While 80 percent of those questioned believe that activists will increasingly take to social media, only 11 percent of investors are confident that companies are adequately prepared to defend themselves online against dissident shareholders.

‘The findings of this study emphasize that narrowcasting communications to the financial community no longer is possible, given that stakeholders are seeking information in increasingly varied ways,’ says Mitzi Emrich, a managing director at FTI, in a press release.

‘It is critical for companies to have a social media presence, share information across a broad range of both traditional and digital channels, and use emerging media to connect with stakeholders – and influencers – in new and meaningful ways.’

The research also finds that 40 percent of investors seek information from third-party sources, such as the media and sell-side analysts, via social media.

By contrast, just 14 percent say they look for information directly from companies via social media. Elizabeth Saunders, senior managing director at FTI, describes the findings as ‘a wake-up call to companies that IR and corporate communications teams can no longer operate as independent silos’.

‘Carl Icahn may have been the first mover, but our study confirms that, going forward, we can expect more activists to exploit this gap in corporate defenses,’ she writes in the release.

Icahn set up a Twitter account this year and used it to announce a new position in Apple. The veteran activist is calling for the tech giant to increase its share buyback program to $150 bn.

The survey was conducted online in October 2013, receiving responses from 201 institutional investors around the world.

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