By Ken Payne
I remember attending a Futures of Entertainment (FoE) conference in Boston a number of years back where I got the opportunity to try out what was then the latest and greatest thing in social media – Twitter!
Up until that point I was squarely in the “heard of it, but never tried it” camp. The deal was if you had a Twitter account – which I opened on my laptop after taking my seat in the crowed auditorium – you could follow @FOE3 and post questions or comments to the distinguished panel, who were discussing trans-media storytelling, another hot topic of the day.
The panel moderator would monitor the feed on a laptop from the podium, pick a few comments and/or questions, and feed that information to the panel. But, the really cool thing - the Twitter feed was projected on a big screen in the front of the auditorium! Needless to say I sent a lot of time watching the big screen.
The whole setup seemed a bit odd to me, this parlor-trick use of technology to facilitate something that could be done just as easily with a graduate student and a microphone. But, nobody would be watching a graduate student with a microphone – how boring is that.
Fast-forward about 6 years when Twitter announced that it won SEC approval to take investor and analyst questions and comments through its micro-blogging service when it reported earnings in 2014. Just like at my FoE conference, folks will use @TwitterIR to participate with questions and comments. I suspect the format at Twitter HQ will be the same as well because all this will be happening concurrently with the company’s earnings report conference call. So, again like the FoE conference, a moderator will curate and pass along a question or two to the proper person for a proper response.
Another Twitter parlor trick? Maybe not. Several larger companies – Facebook, Google and JC Penny come to mind – are sipping the social IR cocktail as well. Netflix got clearance from U.S. regulators to start posting financial information for investors on social media. And, billionaire investor Carl Icahn has been a prolific user of Twitter for his disclosures.
That being said, institutional investors, the people placing big bets on Wall Street, are watching, but remain a bit weary of social IR. A global survey of institutional investors by National Public Relations and the AMO network of financial communications agencies found that 56% of institutional investors surveyed indicated social media was “not yet significant but growing in importance” as a professional tool. And, for those preferring a glass-is-half-full narrative, only 17% of investors dismissed social media as irrelevant to their work.
Interestingly, another important variable from the study got little, if any, attention - reliability. For institutional investors, accuracy, timeliness and trust are the three variables that matter most. The mountain of investment news they receive on a daily basis has to be, above all else, reliable. And surprisingly, the corporate web site (online newsroom) leaped to the top in this study as the most reliable source of information available to institutional investors – better even than the venerable newswires. An astonishing 92% of those surveyed said corporate websites were always or usually reliable sources of information – compared with 87% for the newswires, and a disappointing 79% for newspapers.
So, while social media remains a viable channel for investor outreach and shareholder engagement, the online newsroom remains the go-to source of corporate news and information when billions of dollars are in the balance. Is your corporate online newsroom up to the challenge?
Ken Payne is a TEKGROUP research and content marketing consultant, and an associate professor of public relations at Western Kentucky University’s School of Journalism & Broadcasting who lives at the intersection of technology and tradition. Ken is PRSA accredited, an active member of AEJMC, and would someday like to work as a ski patrol volunteer (free season pass!).