IR And Social Media: Contradiction In Terms


Yesterday Janet Craig wrote that as an investor relations officer, she won’t tweet or blog. ‘2 tweet or not 2 tweet‘, as Twitter users labelled the article, provoked reactions from ‘that is not the question’ to ‘great analysis.’

‘Was it written solely for purpose of generating controversy? Lots of it to take to task,’ tapped out @jracanelli.

Where were Craig’s supporters while this was going on? The anti-Twitter faction apparently didn’t tweet about the debate. Go figure.

Q4’s Darrell Heaps posted a comment on the article with stats rebutting Craig’s assertion that social media channels are not among investors’ top sources of information. He said Craig’s refusal to blog or tweet defied her enthusiasm for social media in other areas of the corporation. Bertrand Dussauge, a social media strategist from Paris, also disagreed with Craig, writing that the conversation has moved online and companies are obliged to take part.

In fact, there’s no fight. It’s just that we lack shared definitions.

Lots of companies lay claim to social media with executive videos posted on their websites, MP3 earnings calls, RSS feeds or news headlines on Twitter. And many investors may say they use those features. But none of that is social media.

My four laws of social media

– A blog is not a blog if it doesn’t accept comments or present an opinion.

– A podcast is not social media just because it can be listened to on an iPod.

– A short video is social media when it’s shared on YouTube but not when it’s posted only on a company’s website.

– A Twitter stream with no interaction (@replies, retweets, etc.) is not social media.

Social media originally meant platforms for shared, user-generated content. It used to be Facebook users created everything we would read on Facebook. YouTube videos were made by Joe Nobody and shared with his friends – and millions of strangers.

So what does that make Coca-Cola’s Facebook page? Or Microsoft’s YouTube channel? Are they social media if large teams manufacture the content under the aegis of big corporations?

Blogs were originally personal, self-published ‘web logs’. That’s a long way from the DellShares blog. It describes very few of the New York Times’ 50 or so ‘blogs’.

I don’t get why newspapers call those blogs. I used to think the name meant they were only on the web, they presented an opinion and they took comments. But now plenty of regular articles are only on the web, and just about every newspaper has online comments on regular articles. So what’s the difference?

A few years ago I listened to the Vancouver Sun’s managing editor explain how journalism would survive in the internet age: newspapers have ‘the discipline of verification’; bloggers don’t.

I liked that – ‘The discipline of verification.’ I didn’t like it when the editor then touted the Sun’s 25-and-counting blogs. By calling the work of journalists ‘blogging’, he was both dragging his paper down to the level of blogs, and moving blogs up to the standards of journalism (change that to up and down if you’re a blogger).

When my friend at a major daily that was launching a blog asked her editors whether the blog would have less editing – a more relaxed discipline of verification – she nearly had her head bitten off. Editorial standards would not be compromised! So there you have full-time, professional journalists writing for a mainstream media giant with layers of editors – how is that blogging?

Don’t get me wrong. Papers have great blogs. For example, I like how the Times uses its blogs to build stories as they break and before they’re published in full-fledged form.

But I think newspapers missed their chance to stand firm and say, ‘What we do is journalism, not blogging.’ I’m not saying one is better than the other, just that they have their own definitions and uses. Or would have had if the lines hadn’t been blurred.

Which brings me back to Janet Craig. She is devoted to transparency. She is in favour of providing colour around a company’s story. Few are better at engaging investors and analysts. She’s a fan of social media for corporate communications. And I’m a fan of hers for saying, ‘What we do is IR, not social media.’

IR is the disciplined and structured conveyance of information by a company to and from the investment community. Social media is a relatively undisciplined and unstructured free-for-all. IROs can use social media, and social media devotees can do IR. But let’s not fuzzy the definitions.


NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at