Best Practice Case Studies for Engaging & Interacting on Twitter

19 July 2012

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On Monday, June 25th, we released our most recent whitepaper on Social Media use for Investor Relations. This whitepaper was an updated look at how public companies are using Twitter and StockTwits for Investor Relations, which we had originally published a whitepaper on in June 2011. You can download a copy of the paper here.

Recently, our CEO Darrell Heaps took part in a NYSE webinar where he discussed social media and IR website best practices. Many of the questions we received following the webinar had to do with engaging followers and getting a more active Twitter following.

That said, we thought it would be useful to share some of the companies we highlighted in our most recent whitepaper that we consider best practices for engaging and interacting with followers on Twitter.

Before we delve into the examples, first a bit of background on how we measured engagement?.

Measuring Engagement

In the study, we measured how companies were using Twitter to engage with followers by looking at how they used @replies, retweets and #hashtags. To determine engagement, we scanned and reviewed the @replies, retweets and use of #hashtags of all 807 companies that use Twitter for investor-related material to gauge their level of interaction.

We found that:

  • 32% of companies have consistent replies
  • 47% retweet
  • 56% use #hashtags

All three of these activities have seen a large increase from last year?s study. Below are some examples of how companies have been using @replies, retweets and #hashtags to engage with their followers.

@replies

@replies allow users to directly respond to another user in public view on Twitter. As in our previous reports, we again found that these conversations ranged from a simple ?thank you? for retweeting a company?s blog post or material previously disclosed to the market such as a press release to answering questions about a company?s products or services.

In 2010, we reported that we did not see significant dialogue between investors and companies on Twitter. However, in 2011 and in this latest report, we have seen slightly more instances of investors asking questions through Twitter, and companies responding accordingly. While many public companies? Twitter feeds have a significant amount of @replies activity, they tend to be consumer based rather than investor based.

AMEC makes it a regular practice of using @replies to thank others for mentioning them or tweeting content and comments about them:

https://twitter.com/AMECworldwide/status/208629758127386625

This report has also confirmed that companies are still making good use of handling customer questions with timely responses. In addition, companies are frequently directing followers to send an email or contact an office by phone so issues can be addressed in the appropriate forum. For example, someone looking to verify employment was directed to contact Cognizant headquarters by phone to verify a fax number:

https://twitter.com/Cognizant/status/190988692146499585

Retweets

Put simply, retweeting is how Twitter users share interesting tweets from the people and companies they are following. Although it is not a direct form of dialogue, it can be a good way to help a company build a relationship with its followers. For example, sharing industry-related information provides more context around a company?s business and will help investors better understand the investment opportunity. It can also help establish the company as a credible source of information on their industry and build trust with investors who will see the company as wanting to help them understand their market and overall opportunity.

We have found that many companies use retweets to endorse and re-publish sector-related information and their position on relevant topics. Our 2011 research found that 48% of companies actively used retweets to provide greater context for investors by promoting third party content, and this latest research supports the same position. The percentage for 2012 is 47%.

Some common examples of these practices include Apache Corporation?s retweet of NM Oil & Gas Association?s tweet on some industry news:

https://twitter.com/NMOGA1/status/116249166669291520

#Hashtags

Companies use the hashtag symbol (#) before relevant keywords in their tweet to catalogue and connect tweets about a specific topic. This practice makes it easier for users to find additional tweets on a particular subject, while filtering out the incidental tweets that may just coincidentally contain the same keyword. Clicking on a word that is preceded by a #hashtag will show all other tweets in that category.

Our current research supports our usage findings from our 2010 and 2011 reports; we found #hashtags were used to either increase the discoverability of a certain message, or to contribute to a specific event (for example, annual meetings, analyst days, or earnings call). We also found that companies used them quite extensively to affiliate keywords related to their sector.

When comparing our #hashtag usage rates for the current sample of companies with the last two whitepapers, the number of companies who use #hashtags has stayed relatively consistent; in 2010, the rate was 52%, in 2011, 58%, and our current research shows a rate of 56%. Further this report found the use of #hashtags is significantly more prevalent by companies in the Technology sector, followed closely by Natural Resources (representing 24% and 22%, respectively). The Services sector rounds out the top three, with 15% of these companies using #hashtags. Industrial Goods/Basic Materials and Pharma/Healthcare/Biotech are the next most active in this, at 9% and 7%.

It has become commonplace for companies to use a #hashtag in their tweets that relates to a particular conference they are sponsoring or attending. For example, BAE Systems announced their upcoming attendance at the Defense Services Asia 2012 event (#DSA) in the tweet below:

https://twitter.com/BAESystemsplc/status/185325135727837184

It is most effective to tailor #hashtags to a specific event. As has been noted in prior reports, eBay represents best practices in their consistent use of tags for tweeting their quarterly calls. Ebay has live-tweeted their earnings for several quarters now, and they consistently use the same #hashtag naming pattern:

In the first quarter of 2011, they used #eBayQ111:

https://twitter.com/ebayinkblog/status/63353667906048000

In the first quarter of 2012, they used #eBayQ112

https://twitter.com/ebayinkblog/status/193106763891998720

The other most common way that companies are regularly using #hashtags is to help group tweets by words relevant to their industry. For example, BAE Systems, a leading global defence security company, consistently uses #submarine because it is relevant to its industry:

https://twitter.com/BAESystemsplc/status/204915796802146305

As we?ve indicated in past reports, companies who choose to use #hashtags on Twitter will increase the likelihood that they will be discovered, particularly if they consistently use the same #hashtag(s). Companies should take care not to overuse #hashtags (such as using several in one tweet) as it may diminish the value of the message by confusing the context of the tweet. Best practices also indicate that it is more effective to use #hashtags only on tweets relevant to the topic.

These are just some of the best practices that we discussed in our 2012 Twitter whitepaper. For more case studies like these please check out the whitepaper here.

 

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