Tuesday, September 8, 2009

More On Social Media and Investor Relations

My goodness gracious, but social media seems to bring out divergent opinions among investor relations professionals. My post last week elicited more responses, both in the form of comments on this blog and in emails, than anything I’ve written over the past two years. Interestingly, the opinions voiced were pretty evenly split; half of the people were proponents of the use of social media in investor relations and half didn’t see the point. Even more interestingly, the half that supported the use of social media were generally those that posted a comment on the blog, while the half that admitted that they, like me, didn’t get it, sent me a one-on-one email.

I thought it might be useful to distill down some of the things I’ve learned over the past week as I have dipped my toe into the waters of social media. In no particular order, here are some of the things I’ve found:

1. Sign up for things and people will start finding you.

In doing research on this topic, I set up accounts on facebook and twitter and worked on updating my linkedin profile. One thing I discovered is that all of a sudden, people started to ask to be my friend on facebook. I don’t know how they knew I was out there, but they found me. The same thing, to a lesser degree, happens on linkedin, but there I can at least see how it happens, as the site shows you how people are linked.

2. You may already be on Twitter.

After I signed up for twitter, I discovered that you can sign up to follow a link called IRbloggers. Lo and behold, when I went there, my latest blog post was listed with a link back to the blog site. Who knew? A close analysis of some of the statistics from my blog shows that for the last month, twitter is actually the fourth most frequent means by which people get to my blog. This is a recent phenomenon, as the same analysis over the past year shows twitter well down the rankings as a referral site.

3. Twitter can get your message out fast.

Perhaps the most common reason cited for the use of twitter is its ability to let people know quickly that more information is available elsewhere, with a link back to the full information set.

4. Twitter can let you know what’s going on in the virtual universe.

Assuming you subscribe to the right feeds, or follow the right people, twitter can give you fast insight into what people are thinking in the webosphere.

5. You can waste a lot of time on this stuff.

Following all the links and feeds takes time, which for most of us is a precious commodity. Robin Tooms, of Savage Design and a social media maven, during Q & A at her Social Media Boot Camp at this year’s NIRI Southwest Conference estimated that she spends an hour to an hour and one-half per day on social media. Personally, I don’t have that kind of extra time in my day and if I did have the extra time, I would want to be somewhere other than in front of my computer.

6. A lot of the stuff is irrelevant or garbage.

Even on a twitter follow site as targeted as IRbloggers, 90% – 95% of what comes across has no relevance to me. Do I really need another distraction in my day wading through the dross to find one or two relevant pieces of information?

7. The digital tsunami is descending on us and we might as well learn how and when to swim.

Where all this comes out no one really knows. The proper etiquette has yet to be figured out. There are certain to be fits and starts into how it comes out in the end, with plenty of unintended consequences along the way. Just because you can be connected 24/7 doesn’t mean that you should be. I’m always amazed when I see analysts who have flown thousands of miles to attend a meeting with management ignore the person in front of them, assume the “Blackberry crouch” and start dealing with emails and other items on the web. Not only is this incredibly rude, but it also makes you less effective for both tasks that you are undertaking. Maybe they’re trying to find the extra hour or two to deal with all the additional information they are being deluged with. In a counter reaction to this type of behavior, this year, for the first time, at the Jones Graduate School of Business, we have to include a statement in our course syllabus banning the use of laptops and cell phones during class because the preponderance of students were not using their laptops for note taking.

I could write more, but I have to go now and update my facebook wall…

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