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Dec 04, 2013

NASDAQ’s social IPOs

The stock exchange is using social media to market its new listings

It would have been rude to do it any other way. Twitter revealed its decision to launch its IPO – how else? – via a tweet. But the micro-blogging site is just one of many companies that now take advantage of social media to market their listings.

Indeed, stock exchanges today set up agency-style campaigns to support companies going public. Facebook, Twitter and newer channels like video-sharing service Vine are all used to whip up buzz around the big day.

NASDAQ OMX employs a team of at least 10 people across marketing, communications, social media and design roles to run IPO campaigns for listing companies. ‘What we do is not dissimilar to what you would do on the agency side,’ explains Jeremy Skule, chief marketing officer at the exchange. The team’s tasks include more traditional forms of marketing, such as getting an ad in the Wall Street Journal or securing an appearance on CNBC, along with curating news across different social media channels.

For Norwegian Cruise Lines, which joined NASDAQ in early 2013, the exchange’s marketing activities included putting promoted posts on Facebook that showcased different ships and destinations. ‘When you think about a following like Norwegian has, and the tremendous loyalty it has built with its customer base, Facebook just made natural sense,’ says Skule.

On the day of the IPO, Norwegian also shared photos of its executive team celebrating in Florida with a new cruise liner – the 114,000-ton Breakaway – in the background. ‘You’re talking about, in some cases, 600 likes on one picture,’ notes Skule.

The campaign around CDW’s June IPO, on the other hand, focused more on Twitter. NASDAQ already had a Twitter-based project up and running called #dreamBIG, which asked users to tweet about their aspirations, whether in business or another field. During CDW’s IPO, the tech retailer encouraged its partners and customers to put out their own tweets around the #dreamBIG theme. ‘It was basically an effort to strike up a dialogue around this concept,’ says Skule.

The exchange uses social management and analysis tools – such as Sprout Social – to gauge the reaction to different campaigns. In the case of CDW, sentiment around the brand ‘spiked like crazy,’ according to Skule. ‘There was such a positive dialogue on Twitter about CDW, and the engagement levels it had during its IPO were tremendous.’

As seen with Norwegian and its cruise ship set piece, it helps if you have something spectacular to share. Fox Factory Holdings, which makes suspension parts for vehicles and mountain bikes, delivered in this respect during its August IPO: the executive team gathered in the middle of Times Square to ring the NASDAQ opening bell. As the CEO pressed the buzzer, a stunt man made a snowmobile jump over their heads. The resulting video, which appeared on NASDAQ’s Vine and YouTube accounts, perhaps should have come with a disclaimer along the lines of: ‘This video contains scenes some shareholders may find disturbing.’

Still, it makes you wonder: what would your CEO do to go viral?

Fox Factory Holdings rings the NASDAQ opening bell 
Making a scene: Fox Factory Holdings rings the NASDAQ opening bell as a snowmobile flies overhead. A video of the stunt appeared on both YouTube and Vine