How to monitor social media for IR
Properly harnessing social media is still something of an unknown quantity in investor relations, largely due to the difficulties that arise when using various web platforms to disclose information.
But one way in which IROs could benefit from Twitter, LinkedIn and their firm’s IR website is to use them to monitor investor and analyst sentiment. Lucy Hartley, Investis’ head of social media and creative content, says using social media in this way is the best place to start any wider online strategy.
‘It’s something companies need to be increasingly aware of, particularly in light of the growing visibility of shareholder activists using social media, like Carl Icahn or Robert Burrow,’ she notes. ‘Monitoring is a good place to start a wider social media strategy. If you’re not doing anything else you should at least be listening to what other people are saying.’
Your investment audience – investors, potential shareholders, financial journalists, analysts, regulators, activists and more far-flung constituents – will have thoughts they share over social media that can inform your IR program. ‘It’s a great way to inform your messaging more widely, not necessarily just in terms of a crisis but also to get the lay of the land, how you’re viewed as a company and how you can adjust your messaging in light of that and put new focus on what you’re disclosing,’ Hartley summarizes.
Where to start? First, you need the right tools for the job, though Hartley says that will be defined by what internal resources are available. ‘Different companies, cap sizes and sectors will get different attention and will need different tools to deal with it,’ she summarizes. Service providers can cover this, or you can start from scratch with some cheaper software, such as Hootsuite or social media suite Radian6.
Many of these – including Investis’ own website hosting service – work through the content management system of an existing website. Hartley says her firm’s modules allow users to track social media sentiment, mainstream news, forums and blogs so they can see where mentions are being made and how influential commentators are.
‘What can also be useful to track – and in our opinion should be coupled with social media monitoring – is who’s coming to your website and looking for information, and how that pairs up with what people are saying about you online,’ Hartley explains. This combined intelligence means specific visitors can be tracked and profiled; from there, you can see how disclosed information is consumed and disseminated.
It’s not just your company name that can be tracked: ‘cashtags’, ticker symbols, competitors, industry names, brands or even key people at your firm, including directors and senior management, can be tracked in this way. ‘For some companies it can still be a difficult idea to take to the board and show the value of it, Hartley warns. ‘Unfortunately, that internal recognition often doesn’t come until it’s too late or something has gone wrong.’
One of her clients, a large-cap European manufacturing company, avoided exactly that situation. ‘It uses intelligence for feedback into lots of other business areas and to identify areas where information is lacking on the website or heading off shareholder attacks,’ she notes. ‘Auction site eBay also did that well recently: it communicated with an activist on his terms, and used what people were looking for to inform what information the firm put out.’
In the end, both remaining informed and engaged on key issues that investors, potential investors and customers care about will ensure your communications remain relevant and useful, Hartley advises.