Preparing to use social media around financial reporting
Recent research shows that three quarters of FTSE 100-listed companies are using social media for results reporting, making the case for understanding the mechanics of digital communications around reporting stronger than ever.
The FTSE 100 counts a combined following of more than 37 mn people across Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. This has become increasingly of interest to in-house IR teams, just as investors and analysts are known to use social media as a complementary source of information in relation to company performance.
London Stock Exchange-listed companies are still bound by the Regulatory News Service (RNS) – a channel for companies to communicate with investors on – which means social media hasn’t (yet) become the primary channel for disclosure.
That said, where social media does come into its own is where it helps to share the story of the performance and strategy of a business, reaching corporate stakeholders in increasingly engaging and creative ways, and achieving a dialogue, particularly where leadership is concerned.
A number of considerations should be made well in advance of the main results day:
- Channels and content
Assuming the company is present on the primary corporate communications channels of Twitter and LinkedIn, messaging should be routed into a content schedule of posts, prepared in advance.
An increasing number of companies are using Instagramto complement their efforts, repurposing charts or imagery used in results collateral – and in all cases, posts on social media should be accompanied by an image or video and ideally a hashtag that draws the strands of the conversation together and supports engagement with the content.
- Leadership and people
Ensuring an appropriate level of leadership commentary on social media is an essential element of best practice. Short, succinct video pieces that involve the CEO summing up the company’s performance are an effective route for communications, notably where the length of film is limited to 60, 90 or 120 seconds. If you go behind the scenes to look at your web and channel analytics, you may find viewers often drop off even sooner, casting doubt on whether the four-minute corporate results video is ever worth the effort.
Beyond the leadership team, there is an additional case to be made around encouraging employees to advocate on the corporate positioning – assuming an effective social media policy is in place.
- Publishing and amplification
Having signed off on content, the business can then start sharing posts, ideally with an alert to followers the day before results, plus a link to any webcast or sign-up options for more information. The content flow on results day itself should be timed to immediately follow the RNS, linking to the main news release while featuring additional collateral in support of the main messages being shared.
This is the critical period when conversations should be monitored, providing a flag on any topics or themes that need further explanation, or inaccuracies that require correction. It is also at this time that some companies have been found to be promoting posts through paid placement on social media channels. Sponsoring content in this way – using the advanced targeting functions of many of the channels – helps the company’s key messages to land more effectively among certain key audiences.
Ant Moore is a senior managing director and co-head of the digital and creative communications practice within the strategic communications segment at FTI Consulting