Successful Integration of Social Media Tools in IR Websites
16 April 2009
NIRI recently held a Webinar entitled ?Trends in Technology and Disclosure.? Three IRO?s from Microvision, BGC Partners Inc., and Sun Microsystems each discussed how they have integrated social media tools such as corporate blogs, implemented notice and access releases and enriched investor communication portals to enhance and increase interaction with shareholders.
Microvision – Corporate blogging
The first speaker was Tiffany Bradford, IRO of Microvision who was at the forefront of implementing the company?s corporate blog initiative.? As she is the only person in the IR department, she (along with other key members of management) was spending quite a bit of time on the phone with investors.? Having worked internally in IR, I can tell you that this can be a time consuming task.? As a result, she began looking into cost-effective solutions that would enable communication of non-material information to a broader audience.? In order to gain buy-in from management, she armed herself with research of what other companies were doing and what would work the best for the company.? The end result was a multi-author blog with representatives from communications and marketing entitled ?The Displayground? which links to media articles, product demonstrations, customer testimonials and anything that supports and enhances understanding of the Microvision story.
The blog took six months to implement, but they are seeing some worthwhile returns.? For example, a week prior to issuing their Q4 and year-end results, Tiffany via a posting on the blog, proactively asked investors what questions or issues they would like addressed.? In total, about 26 people responded which is proof that adding a blog to your corporate website can increase interaction with key audiences!
BGC Partners – Notice and Access Earnings
A second trend that was discussed was the use of Notice and Access for material releases by Jason McGruder, IRO of BGC Partners, a small-cap inter-dealer broker of financial instruments.? In response to the SEC?s Interpretative Guidance on the use of websites issued in 2008, in February of this year, BGC issued the date of its earnings release announcement and took this opportunity to notify investors that they would no longer be issuing via a newswire.? Instead they would be sending out a shorter release with embedded links to the full release that would be posted on BGC?s website.
Others who have adopted this approach have cited it is cheaper as the fees to disseminate earnings announcements over the wire are in the thousands ? which are not necessary especially since stats have shown that a company?s website is one of the first places a current or potential investor visits to gain current information. While Jason acknowledges the cost savings, the initial reason he went this route was to save time.? After going through the process once, he also cites it is easier to correct potential errors (as one does not have to rely on an external party to format for dissemination over the wire) and there is only one complete version to prepare for the website.
In spite of this (and the fact this was their first time issuing an advisory release), they made sure that the full release was readily accessible in different areas of the website.? They also converted the release to both HTML and pdf format and extracted the financial tables into excel to make them easier to download.? With the learning curve behind them, issuing their next earnings release should be even more efficient.
Sun Microsystems – Investor Communications Portal
Lastly, Paul Ziots and Angela Zing, the IR team at Sun Microsystems gave some insight on the development of a rich portal of investor information dubbed ?Official Investor Communications Portal.? Essentially it is a subset of the IR website which was created as a central source of material information.? It allows investors to subscribe to the information using RSS feed readers and twitter.? It is easy to navigate and a lot of thought was put into what information should be highlighted (i.e. recent news releases, SEC filings, CEO blog postings).? It really is a great example of how social media can be easily integrated into an existing website.
The success that each of the three companies have had in adopting corporate blogs, implementing notice and access releases and creating enriched investor communication portals is a testament that IR websites are a valuable tool to interact with key audiences and make it easy for them to access material and non-material information.? If you haven?t taken the time out already, I encourage you to listen to the webinar.? It was very insightful and may inspire you to conduct an audit of your own website to show you how easy it is to integrate some of these popular social avenues.