Taking on social media
dna13.com A CNW Group Company white paper
Tips to help your IR team develop a social
media strategy that works for your company.
Today, many of your company’s stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, partners and shareholders—
get much of their information from online sources. They’re reading digital editions of traditional media outlets
and following social media, ranging from blogs to Facebook to Twitter.
The digital world is immediate and rumors can travel far and wide in an instant. As a result, a company’s
reputation can be spoiled in hours, even minutes, over an alleged faulty product, a misunderstanding about
financials or a rumor about a high-ranking executive.
Business executives surveyed by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research estimated that a company’s reputation
contributes to 63 per cent of its stock valuation. And AON’s Global Risk Management Survey listed “damage to
reputation” as the number one business risk in 2007 (it dropped lower in 2009 due to the economic crisis).
As a result, there’s growing pressure for IR professionals to tap into social media to communicate with current
and potential investors, and to help preserve the company’s reputation online.
This is a new demand on IR departments. It’s bringing with it a range of anxieties from increasing the time-
crunch in the department, to worries that social media efforts will appear unprofessional or not in keeping with
Many IR professionals disregard social media because they believe it is only used by retail investors. Not
necessarily true. A Brunswick Group 2009 study of digital media use (defined to include blogs, message boards,
social media and micro-blogging services) by the financial industry found that there is meaningful and growing
usage by this audience. For example, 47% of institutional investors read blogs for investment research and
Others assume that social media is only of concern to companies who have a direct consumer retail channel.
Not true. All companies interact with people, even those selling B2B services, ideas, resources, labor or capital
– and those people are online.
Building an effective social media program is easier than many think and it needn’t be fraught with worry. The
benefits are immediate and you can scale your involvement – and your time investment - on your own terms.
Investor Relations: Taking on social media 2
Why do it?
In the past, corporate communications teams were charged with preserving a company’s reputation. However,
with the advent of social media, all departments can play a role in monitoring and upholding corporate
For IR, that role is about being aware of where investors are gathering information, and helping to shape that
information. The IR team has a unique perspective on what topics could be of interest or detriment to the
organization. The IR team also has its own set of stakeholders and influencers worth watching, and is in the best
position to spot conversations of risk to a company’s valuation.
Increasingly investors are developing their strategies based on information gleaned online: news coverage by
traditional media outlets, conversations on blogs, investor chat rooms, Twitter. By monitoring those same
conversations and sources you can easily gauge consumer and investor sentiment about your brand and
determine whether action is required. Being able to respond to growing issues in real-time is a valuable tool in
helping shape your company’s online buzz.
20% of institutional investors and sell-side A 2010 study from the Ross School of Business at
analysts surveyed by the Australian Investor the University of Michigan found that companies
Relations Association said that information who used Twitter to distribute financial news got
lower bid-ask spreads and greater depths. The
accessed through social media channels had
study also found the biggest impact was for lower
influenced their investment decisions.
visibility firms that didn’t get much traditional
How to do it
Here are some straightforward, step-by-step tips to help your IR team develop a social media strategy that
works for your company.
Step 1: Set goals
Write down what you hope to achieve by developing a social media plan. The goals of an IR team may be to flag
issues that would then be passed to Corporate Communications for resolution. Or, you may set as a goal to
balance the online dominance of a competitor. Or it could be that your industry has key influencers who prefer to
use social media for outreach and information gathering. Understand before you begin what success will look
like for your plan.
Investor Relations: Taking on social media 3
Step 2: Start listening
Even if you do nothing else in social media, join Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and seek out your industry’s
networks and influencers. Be sure to reserve your brand identity on all the major platforms. Just as you would
try to own the web domains that contain your company name, ensure you claim the social media identities
bearing your brand.
Read the posts and tweets of your stakeholders, partners, beat reporters and
competitors and follow, friend or connect with them. You’ll soon find that
many of them will follow you in return, enabling you to build your own social
Subscribe to blogs and note not only what others are saying, but how and
when they say it.
You don’t need to tweet to benefit from Twitter. Search for keywords relevant to your company and industry to
find out what people (including your employees) are saying online. Contributing to the conversation is essential
only if your objective is to engage an audience.
The internet is home to innumerable blogs, articles, news stories, tweets and conversations related to just about
every industry out there. It would be impossible to keep up with all of it on your own. Consider using technology
to help monitor traditional media coverage and social media conversations about your company or your industry.
You can utilize the basic monitoring functions within free, web-based tools such as Google Alerts. While these
alerts may scratch the surface, consider a paid media monitoring platform such as MediaVantage for a more
comprehensive, customizable view of what’s going on. MediaVantage keeps tabs on everything from TV, print and
online news to blogs, Twitter and investor chat rooms. MediaVantage also provides real-time alerts whenever
keywords you specified are used online, keeping you in-the-know with minimal time investment.
Step 3: Contribute to the Conversation
Once you understand where your stakeholders are on the web and how they communicate, it may be time to say
Don’t over think this commitment. Joining the conversation online can be
as simple as repurposing existing information by sharing a link to your
company’s latest news release or pointing to industry-related news stories
that you found helpful.
Stay professional, but let your personality show in your posts. Add a brief comment describing what you found
interesting about the material you’re sharing. Most social media experts agree people prefer to interact online
with a real person as compared to a one-way corporate account.
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Most companies have internal policies regarding employee conduct and disclosure. Ensure your policies
recognize new online technology and outline boundaries for employee use of social media.
While there may be limits to what you can share with your followers from a disclosure perspective, you won’t be
criticized for holding back where required. That said, if you can comment – be sure to do so.
Step 4: Try new things
Once you’ve laid the basic groundwork and spent some time getting comfortable, you can launch a more
advanced social media program.
If you have the time and resources, work with your IT team to create a blog site for your company. If your
company already has a blog, ask if you can become a regular contributor. Typical corporate blogs empower
dedicated staff members to write regularly about the company and industry news – and most would be thrilled
to receive some help producing content.
You can then highlight key points on a series of Twitter postings that point back to the blog, to generate traffic
You can ramp up your department’s social media efforts when your company
issues earnings announcements or other material news. This can mean
posting an earnings news release on a blog, and providing some commentary
on the numbers.
Use multimedia to enhance your communications. Post videos of new products or a fireside chat with top
executives; research shows that video can magnify investors’ perceptions of CEO credibility. Releasing
multimedia in conjunction with financials can help your company get noticed and linked to by traditional media
and online audiences.
The staff members taking care of your blogs and social media accounts can be engaging in conversations about
your company’s news: adding clarification, clearing up misunderstandings, offering relevant links to partners
and suppliers and accentuating the positive; all of which can build relationships, improve customer loyalty,
control rumors or stave off minor crises before they turn major.
The time is now
As the investment community becomes increasingly digital, IR departments can use their unique perspective to
help protect their company’s reputation online. The investment can be scaled to reflect an IR team’s busy reality,
but the time is now: Stop wondering and start listening.
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Top tips for getting connected
» Start thinking big picture—corporate reputation affects every aspect of your company’s business.
» Update your company policies around conduct and disclosure
» Reserve your brand identity on all major social media platforms. Don’t let anyone highjack
» Know your audience: find your stakeholders online and follow their conversations to learn their
perceptions of your organization and its offerings
» Understand how quickly information moves on the web and be ready to respond should an issue
blow up online.
» Start incorporating multimedia as a starting point to improve your interaction with web audiences.
» Never talk down to anyone using social media. Your comments online will long outlive your temper.
» Feel free to listen in on social media conversations without speaking up yourself. Use automated
monitoring tools to sort through the clutter and save you time.
» Refuse to pass the buck. In a crisis large or small, all departments in your company can help
control the damage and communicate with stakeholders.
» Think ahead. Try to predict how announcements, changes in policies, ad campaigns, or even world
events could impact your organization and jump-start a reputation crisis.
Investor Relations: Taking on social media 6