Twitter for IR? Think before tweeting

twitter_logo_headerTwitter tops the list of hottest social media and is generating lots of “gee whiz” stories in the press. But is Twitter the right bird for investor relations?

We should think before tweeting. Take Twitter seriously, but think strategically.

In case you were dozing, Twitter is the rapidly growing 3-year-old networking site where users “microblog” in 140-character messages. Tweets range from “Taking the cat out now” personal chat to “Buy, buy, buy!” self-promotion. Lots of links to articles and blog posts. Some spam and porn. Some actual conversation, where two or more people talk to each other instead of at each other.

Twitter users connect to one another and can send direct messages, which seem close to taking the place of email among some devoted Twitterers.

Twitter doesn’t disclose the exact number of users, but Compete.com, a web monitoring service, estimated 19 million unique visitors to Twitter in April. By a wide margin, Twitter is the most talked-about brand in online chatter, according to Social Radar, a social media monitoring service.

The Harvard Business blog published an interesting study on Twitter this week. Analyzing a sample of 300,000 Twitter users, HBS found that a typical Twitter user contributes very rarely – the median user has made 1 lifetime tweet. The most active 10% of users generate 90% of the tweets. The authors comment:

This implies that Twitter resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network.

Companies use Twitter to market their brands, listen to people’s uncensored comments on those brands, search for consumer complaints and respond proactively to help people deal with product problems – and to disseminate news.

Are investors – our audience in IR – using Twitter? Certainly, though the evidence is anecdotal. The financial newsbyte service @stocktwits claims 75,000 followers. The SEC is on Twitter @SEC_News. Companies are using Twitter to provide news – and attracting followers, some of whom are investors, to connect on this platform. Tweeting a link to a news release seems like another form of email alert.

Corporate activity on Twitter remains experimental. Some companies are hitting just the right voice – moving from announcing new products to resolving customer service issues to linking to earnings releases. Twitter is playing a role in the viral spread of nasty news or complaints, and in corporate responses to crises. One company live-blogged its annual meeting in 140-character snippets, which didn’t compare too well with actually hearing it on a webcast. Some posts are very casual in tone, some formal. A corporate user needs to find a good balance, I think.

On the other hand, a part of our audience is gathering information via Twitter – and potentially having conversations about our companies. Certainly, we should listen in (designating someone to search Twitter, or hiring a web-monitoring service).

And we should be addressing strategic questions: Would this help us connect with our audience? What would we say? How could we integrate a conversation with investors and outreach to other audiences ? Do we have the people resources to do this? Would Twitter as a tactic add value to our IR strategy? 

I’d love to get your reactions – here or @StrategicComm on Twitter.

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4 Responses to “Twitter for IR? Think before tweeting”

  1. Jeremy Bridgman Says:

    I think there is an opportunity for companies to connect with investors using social media, whether it’s via Twitter, Facebook, or something yet to be invented. Innovative companies could really benefit from transparent, public dialogue.

    You said it right: “Corporate activity on Twitter remains experimental.” And there are obvious hesitancies among IROs and legal departments. But we need to talk about overcoming these challenges and how to amplify our messages with these tools. Twitter isn’t a strategy any more than a website or corporate blog, but it could be–at minimum–a useful listening tool.

    I think it can fit within the laws and the SEC guidance, and we should keep pushing for adoption.

  2. Dick Johnson Says:

    I’m with you, Jeremy. Thanks for your comment.

  3. links for 2009-06-29 | Estate of Flux Says:

    […] Twitter for IR? Think before tweeting « IR Café The most active 10% of users generate 90% of the tweets. (tags: twitter IR) […]

  4. Social media: Be a leader « IR Café Says:

    […] Website Checklist of what should be there, Tiptoeing into 2.0 on trends in corporate engagement, Twitter for IR? thoughts, Social media, reputation & IR, and Social media strategies: Talk, listen … or? […]

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