By Catherine McEwing
Q: I want to integrate social media into my IR program. What do you advise?
A: First, work out your baseline: you need to know which social media are already working for you, where your company is being discussed in the social media space, and what is being said. Knowing the extent of current coverage will enable you to prioritise your social media efforts and judge their degree of success with relevant analytics.
It will also enable you to firm up what it is you hope to achieve from incorporating social media into your investor communications, and to articulate those successes that you want to take to the CEO.
Several firms now include social media monitoring to help in this regard, and there are also service providers that can issue you with an email alert whenever your company is mentioned. Let’s say that in your initial research you find your company is being Tweeted about regularly, or that your industry is the subject of regular discussion on LinkedIn. You can then focus your efforts on these two platforms rather than trying to cover the whole gamut of social media.
Next, identify suitable material to promote. You probably have lots of excellent website content and information on company events that can be communicated just as well on Twitter and LinkedIn as on your website. Twitter works particularly well for short news pieces such as the announcement of a new executive appointment, or the arrival of your new online annual report. And with the facility to add URL links to take Tweeters directly to your corporate website, you can easily see where the spikes in traffic to your website occur as a result of using social media to direct people to specific content.
Rather than rushing to produce new material, our advice is to work with what you already have. We have found a lot of people reluctant to embrace social media because of concerns over how much time it will take up and uncertainty over which outlets – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – they should use. By seeing social media as a simple extension of existing IR efforts, however, the degree of original effort can be minimized. Rio Tinto does this well, using Twitter to release results, draw attention to media interviews and announce other news.
We are also increasingly seeing the growth of social media use among commentators. A 2010 survey of financial journalists conducted by PR agency Broadgate Mainland finds 26 per cent of financial journalists use social media on a daily basis as a source for story ideas and research.
Increasingly, therefore, professional communicators are finding social media can be a place to connect not only with investors, but also with other key stakeholders.
By exploiting the possibilities social media have to offer, you can ensure far more people are made aware of the events and activities that are most important to you and your company. Good luck with your foray into this new space.
Catherine McEwing runs the European individual software division of Morningstar.