A Quick Recap of NIRI’s Social Media use for IR Webinar
25 July 2014
By John Schoeler
The other day, NIRI hosted an excellent webinar on social media strategies for investor relations. For anyone who did not get the opportunity to attend this informative discussion, we strongly suggest you check out the archived webinar here.
The webinar was unique in that NIRI was able to cull together a diverse panel to really highlight all the different perspectives surrounding social media and IR. Dennis Walsh, Vice President at Sharon Merrill, moderated the discussion. Walsh has long been a proponent of social media use for investor relations and was the perfect moderator for the event. The panelists were:
- David Jackson, CEO, Seeking Alpha
- RJ Jones, Investor Relations Officer, Zillow, Inc.
- Andrew Shapiro, Founder, President and Portfolio Manager, Lawndale Capital Management
What was great about this panel was that all three contributors were coming from different places when it comes to social media use. Below are some key takeaways that each panelist shared regarding social media, how they use it and how IROs can best make use of it to engage their investors and analysts.
Shapiro was candid on a number of aspects of his social media use. Most of the tweets that he publishes have to do with either corporate governance or investor activism news. To reach the community interested in those topics, most of his posts are tagged with the #activistinvestor and #corpgov.
For his longer form contributions on Seeking Alpha, where he focuses mostly on small / micro cap companies that lack a lot of sell side analyst coverage, he has built a strong reputation within the community. Shapiro notes that he likes the format of Seeking Alpha because it allows him to write in-depth articles from his own personal research and then interact with the Seeking Alpha community.
When asked about the type of followers he has on Twitter and Seeking Alpha, Shapiro was quick to note that with both channels, you get a mixed bag of people using their real names and people using pseudonyms. From what he can gather from the interactions he has and the coverage he gets, he is primarily followed by members of the financial media, the corporate governance community and some retail investors.
Jackson was quick to note right off the bat that despite what many people think, Seeking Alpha is very selective about the posts they publish. Around 80% of the articles that are submitted are rejected based on the quality of the article. The criteria they use to decide which articles they will publish includes, among other things; properly cited sources and that no material information is being disclosed. They also require the true identity of the contributor.
While Seeking Alpha allows their contributors to post using a pseudonym, they still want to know their true identity so they understand the prospective of the contributor and get a sense of what their stake is in the company they are writing about. Jackson takes quality control very seriously and is quick to highlight that hosting articles that make false claims does damage to Seeking Alpha and in order to keep their community active and supportive, they only want to host the highest quality content.
Jackson then shared a number of different ways that IROs can get involved on the site and make their voices heard. While Seeking Alpha does not publish articles written by IROs, they do publish articles written by company CEOs and other upper management level executives. The Seeking Alpha community is very receptive to these posts because they want to get more personal information and perspectives from higher-level executives within the company.
Lots of companies also have their IROs do interviews with contributors who cover their company and/or others within the industry. These are more popular with the community than IRO penned articles because they are viewed as an IRO providing information from an impartial line of questioning. For IROs, this can be a great opportunity for them to say their piece as well as engage with the Seeking Alpha community.
Finally, Jackson felt that the greatest advantage Seeking Alpha could bring to an IRO is a look into the sentiment of the online investment community. Looking through the articles can give a real sense of what is being said and how people feel about a company or industry. Going deeper still, reviewing the comments section in the posts provides an even more in-depth look at what kind of effect the article is having on people and whether or not the messaging is influencing their investment behaviour. This is invaluable tool for crafting your messaging to investors and providing them with the insight and answering they are looking for.
Jones stated that the main factor behind using social media was to create another access point for interested parties to follow along with Zillow news. Jones would regularly get questions from investors and analysts and saw social media as a chance to answer those questions in a public forum for everyone to see. As for the reception, Jones feels that so far it has been very positive, with analysts and investors being very receptive to their efforts.
When it comes to maintaining social channels, Jones points to Zillow regularly repurposing their own content like blogs and news releases as fodder for postings on Twitter and Facebook. Zillow also regularly posts infographics providing different company performance and service metrics announced during the previous quarter. This is a great way to repurpose your corporate reporting in a visual way as well reminding your followers of the company’s performance without disclosing anything that would be considered material.
Finally, Jones warned that even though he has seen great success with Zillow’s social media use for IR, an important step everyone needs to take into consideration is that there needs to be some kind of approval process. Jones works with a number of other departments (communications, marketing, legal) when publishing posts to make sure they fit in with brand messaging and do not constitute anything that could be considered material.
There is a lot more content covered as well as a very in-depth question and answer period with the panelists taking a wide variety of inquires with an IRO slant. For all this and more make sure you check out the full webinar here.