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relationsRead time = 3-4 minutes) With the buzz around social networking, I’m struck by how small the conversation seems to be regarding investor community/investor relations. IR pros, in my experience, are among the best at networking and engaging in community conversation. I see the occasional YouTube video annual report… certainly there are several blogs to be found, but in the larger social media conversation, IR seems mostly missing in action.

Yes, IR outreach is by nature cautious… and regulated. There’s concern about disclosure and eDiscovery, in particular. But with the evolution of on-line tools and global, 24/7 investment markets, the social media landscape would seem fertile ground for both messaging and IR communications.

Regulators weighing in: Social media IR relevance moved a giant step closed in July ’08, when the SEC recognition of corporate web content as public disclosure avenues (click here) .  Here also  is one of the better blog posts on that by brian solis.  SEC guidance on the use of Company Websites (Aug 08) is also available, a 41-page report; this addressed 1) when information posted on a company web site is “public” for purposes of Regulation FD, and 2) company information liability. Keeping pace with rapidly changing tools, transparency and regulation clearly presents a large challenge for PR/AR/IR company professionals. Even while companies might find roles for social networks, blogs and digital communities, traditional outlets remain as well as the underlying responsibility for companies to share data consistently and in compliance with regulators and standards.

So… Who’s Doing What? What Can Be Learned from the Pioneers? 

A snapshot of several big brands and how they are engaging on the investor relations front, as well as a research tracking site for a larger picture.

@DellShares  A Dell blog specifically aimed at shareholder conversation and community. Sun Microsystems: Official Investor Communications

Sun has been a loud advocate, wonder if the Oracle buyout will cause a change in direction.  In the past, Sun has offered up a  Compilation of RSS investor feeds; access to events; earnings news releases; breaking news; SEC filings; blog.

eBay blogs on earnings  One of the most innovative approaches. eBay official corporate Twitter account, used in part for promoting earnings calls example from eBay, Friday 3/6/09 by eBay’s own “internal reporter”, Richard Brewer-Hay. During earnings calls, he tweeted live and is empowered to shape the brand while adding perspective and personality.

The Society for New Communications Research tracks 75+ Fortune 500 companies that use corporate blogs and over 20 that link to corporate Twitter accounts.

Some Observations

  •  The line is blurring between traditional IR communications channels and new media channels/web. 
  • Paying attention is good due diligence
  • Social media is not just about Twitter and Facebook. Consider: Seeking Alpha, Wikinvest, StockTwits, 1000s of financial blogs, and the countless emerging services sites
  • Risk of social media exists whether you participate or not
  • New media amplifies an individual’s voice, sometimes louder than the company’s voice.

What else are you thinking; what other experiences or observations do you have?

By the way:  this blog post is not intended to be, in any way, a substitute for specific legal advice, as legal counsel, or in any other way recommendation for company behavior.  The blog post is an evolving discussion around the topic of social media use.
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