Only 28 percent of IR practitioners use social media for IR, according to a 2016 social media survey conducted by the National Investor Relations Institute. The same study reported reluctance among analysts, with only 15-18 percent interested in using social media to engage with IR. Yet a majority of Americans now say they get news via social media and are using it in the context of their work.
According to research published in 2016by the Pew Research Center, 24 percent of those surveyed said they use social media to get information that helps solve problems at work. Pew also reported that nearly eight in 10 online Americans have a Facebook account. While other social platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are smaller in size, social’s overall scale, data and information advantages have made it an increasingly important channel and marketing partner for business overall. As a strategic part of business communications, investor relations is inevitably becoming more social.
The question is no longer whether investor relations should engage in social media but how. Investor relations professionals are highly specialized communicators, operating within the bounds of SEC regulations and securities laws while often the first to communicate new business concepts, ideas, strategies and future plans to analysts, investors, lawmakers, employees, strategic partners and other key stakeholders. In this high-stakes arena, a casual comment made on social media can be disastrous, requiring 8-K filings and legal action. In some cases, they’ve resulted in management termination.
At the same time, blog postings by day traders and individual investors on message boards and stock-related communications platforms can spread misinformation quickly, having an immediate and often damaging impact on a company’s share price, and it can be difficult for management teams not to react.
Integrating investor relations within a corporate communications strategy that includes social media, as well as following a few simple guidelines, should help make the task less daunting. We’ve outlined a few guidelines for investor relations to keep in mind while communicating through social media.
• Leverage social media as an integrated part of a social communications plan that includes IR to increase visibility, transparency and awareness.
• B2C companies should consider establishing a distinct social media identity for the business, focused on corporate and financial information, separate from your customer social media channels that typically focus on product and customer service. CEOs, other officers and brands may also want to consider establishing distinct social media identities but should not use them for personal communications.
• Establish the IR website as the primary IR communications channel and post the company’s social media disclosure notice to the site, noting the company intends to distribute material information about the company via social media.
• Embed social media, such as Twitter feeds, YouTube videos or slides posted to LinkedIn, into your IR site when possible to increase awareness of your social media channels and provide easy access to reference materials on the IR website.
• Time social media posts with the public disclosure of press releases, earnings calls, and investor conferences. Content within social media posts often includes references to headlines, key metrics and information on which companies want investors to focus, as well as content and quotes from press releases, earnings call scripts and other previously disclosed, publicly available information.
• Always link social media posts to the IR website to reference complete disclosures
• Establish a social media policy for all employees regarding acceptable and unacceptable social media content consistent with your company’s brand identity
• Select authorized spokespeople with a clear understanding of RegFD and investor relations communications along with an internal terms and conditions document to manage social media channels.
• Archive all social media posts and document references.
• Measure social media activity to understand which channels work best for your Company’s messaging and investor preferences. Focus on developing social media for channels that your investors prefer.
• Disclose new information or provide unique commentary about your company or financials through social media sites that has not been previously disclosed within a press release, filing, presentation or other communications on the IR Website.
• Engage in investor-related social media conversations that encourage rumors, speculation or false information, refer these inquiries back to the IR website for more information if necessary
• Use social media to announce internal or external meetings and their related topics that the public wouldn’t be invited to or otherwise announced on the company website. This includes: internal meetings — topics and/or individuals — roadshows, non-deal roadshows and one-on-one meetings with investors, meetings with business partners or customers and meetings with potential business partners or customers.
• Disclose investor related materials from the personal social media site of an individual corporate officer or employee without advance notice to investors that the site may be used for this purpose. Personal social media sites of individuals employed by a public company would not ordinarily be assumed to be channels through which the company would disclose material corporate information and are not an acceptable method of disclosure under the securities laws.
Social media disclosure
Investors and others should note that [Company Name] announces material, financial and operational information to its investors using its investor relations website, press releases, SEC filings and public conference calls and webcasts. [Company Name] also intends to use [named social media] accounts, as means of disclosing information about [Company Name] and its services and for complying with its disclosure obligations under Regulation FD. The information we post through these social media channels may be deemed material. Accordingly, investors should monitor these social media channels in addition to following [Company Name] press releases, SEC filings and public conference calls and webcasts. The social media channels that [Company Name] intends to use as a means of disclosing the information described above may be updated from time to time as listed on [Company Name] investor relations website.
Denise Garcia is managing director of investor Relations at ICR.