Social media investor relations: Friend or foe?

As recent events have shown, a single negative tweet can turn into a PR crisis firestorm with lasting impact on a brand’s reputation. Companies that respond quickly and with savvy are more able to weather the storm, which is why social media investor relations can be so powerful.

But you can only respond quickly if you know the conversation is happening. “Anybody can start a rumor about you, and if you aren’t listening, you won’t know,” Business Wire’s Director of Social and Evolving Media Serena Ehrlich told me. “And if it takes hold and a reporter gets a hold of it and it becomes news, you’ll be caught off guard, and you can’t fix it or respond properly.”

A Greenwich Associates study stated that 80 percent of institutional investors use social media regularly, with 30 percent reporting that “material from social media had influenced their investment decisions.” Additionally, 37 percent passed along information from social media to senior leadership.

And yet, 72 percent of investor relations professionals say they do not use social media, according to a 2016 study by the National Investor Relations Institute.

Here are some tips for social media investor relations to bridge this gap:

  • Listen, listen, listen: Set up a social media monitoring or listening service that tracks company and keyword mentions to stay abreast of chatter and social sentiment about your organization and leadership on social media. Ehrlich suggests including common misspellings of names, too. Have team members dedicated to monitoring and reporting on these.
  • Make it easy to verify: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a warning to investors to verify information obtained from social media before using it to make investment decisions. “Fraudsters can spread false or misleading information about a stock to large numbers of people with minimum effort and at a relatively low cost,” said the SEC. Make sure that the information you send out via social media is easy for investors to follow up on and understand in-depth.
  • Blog to provide context: Blogging can be an effective and shareable way to provide that in-depth context and to talk about non-investing initiatives of note, such as corporate giving. On LinkedIn and Facebook, you can add a longer post along with a link to your report or announcement. This can help you tell a fuller story with more context and more information than a 140-character tweet.
  • Focus on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook: That’s where institutional investors explore the most. For example, 52 percent told Greenwich Associates that they’re active on LinkedIn. The monitoring service you use might scan all sites, however, to help you catch things in time to intervene.
  • Respond promptly: Timing matters. A delayed response can give the “Twitterverse” plenty of time to control the story. By the time you finally speak up, the negative sentiments may have already taken hold and can persist.
  • Post. Repost. Tweet. Retweet. Repeat: Because of the velocity of social media feeds, it’s essential to post repeatedly, at different times, and on different platforms. Schedule these with your social media monitoring service.
  • Remember that institutional investors are people, too: Identify individual institutional investors, analysts and influencers — such as journalists, commentators and thought leaders — and reach out to them on social media. Follow them on Twitter and invite them to connect on LinkedIn. Read their posts, tweets and retweets. Reply and start a dialogue with them. It’s all part of smart social media investor relations.
  • Go multimedia: Use images, graphics, video, live chats and podcasts to tell your story and get your points across. If you show instead of tell, you’ll have a broader, deeper impact.

Whatever you do, stay tuned in and leverage social media. Yes, it takes time, but the price of not doing so is too high, as companies continue to learn the hard way. What you see about your company on social media and how you respond to it (or don’t) could affect your company’s stock price and bottom line — as well as your relationships with potential investors.

Joan Bryna Michelson is a creative business and communications strategist, writer, and journalist who is also Executive Producer and host of the acclaimed radio show-podcast series Green Connections Radio,™ chosen by USA Today as one of the top six podcasts especially for business travelers. Joan has a Huffington Post blog, has been published in TheAtlantic.com, The Washington Post, The New Economy, and many others on various platforms, including a column on leadership in a business journal and excerpts in books about innovation and women’s leadership (separate books). She has also been an on-air broadcast talent and/or producer with: WTOP-FM, Greenbiz, CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” ABC News, and NBC. Her communications clients have included: the U.S. Department of Energy, the Clean Energy Alliance, Earth Day Network, Global Environment Fund, Northbridge Energy Partners, and international environmental consulting firm Marstel-Day.

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