We Offer a Snippy Response to IR’s Three-Peat Dismissal of Social Media

Responding to an informed blog post by PR Newswire about the black-balling of social media with the halls of IR-dom, we vented our spleen a bit in embarrassment of the position being taken by a majority of IR professionals.  

Investor relations and social medi(um) to luke warm

Last week, the shareholder communications sphere experienced the hat trick of “IR and social media” reports coming from three independent studies. No surprise to anyone in the niche – all reports were aligned…. 
Our Snippy Response – Posted on the blog:
Bless you for covering this topic and taking the risk of coming to a different conclusion than the IR pack – the same group that has standardized on “XYZ Enterprises, Inc. Reports Fiscal 2016 Results of Financial Operations” as the preferred headline template for optimizing exposure of their Company and 1/4ly financial performance or the headline template “XYZ Enterprises, Inc. Board of Directors Declares Regular Quarterly Dividend” to turbocharge visibility of this capital allocation strategy (and decides the actual amount of the dividend should remain hidden like a present in the release body). 
That the conversation is going on and a meaningful base of investors are engaged in social media of various types should certainly not dissuade those charged with investor relations to try to shape that dialogue with company prepared and vetted communications and disclosures. Far better to just ignore it and pretend that everything is just fine – certainly the market can take care of our reputation better than we can. 
I can certainly see the comfort of being completely satisfied with the breadth of your visibility and the clarity of investor perceptions, such that you needn’t lower or burden yourself with putting a toe into a new medium. Unfortunately, in my unsightly career – I’ve been saddled with fabulous clients that weren’t in such a great position – and so we have utilized this scary medium in a prudent way to help raise their visibility. 
Finally – how can the investors who’s opinions the surveyed IR practitioners value ever become more engaged in social media if 73% of IROs refrain from engaging? Nice work – hold them off at the pass. And we wonder why the IR profession is not held in the esteem we all think our role deserves – perhaps if we all try harder to lead than to follow – our perceived value might receive a boost.
To which we add here:
Yes – we know social media is new, different, not in our control and potentially scary.  No one ever got fired for a Tweet they never made – yet…  But when you review the medium and its potential to expand the reach of your communications, it’s hard to come to the decision that it’s not worth a few minutes a day of your IR team’s time to reach the investors AND JOURNALISTS & BLOGGERS that are active in social media. 
Social media solves the perpetual problem of pushing your news out to the very same people who are already watching.  You issue a release and it goes into a “digital drawer” with your company name and symbol on it.  Few will every see it if they don’t know your name or symbol.  Social media is a way to drive traffic to that drawer; to find new investors and others who are passionate about elements of what you do, and to demonstrate a willingness to invest in all channels of communication – not just the ones that you control 100%. 
Finally – the party is going on with our without you.  How long will you be able to ignore how they are characterizing you at the party?  Is there any other global medium that you are able to ignore or not seek to influence with your perspective and disclosures?  
Abstention is likely due one or more factors:  1) Don’t understand the medium and/or are afraid; 2) concern about potential negative feedback; 3) Just say nothing legal/disclosure posture; 4) Too busy already – no bandwidth for another task; 5) would have to figure out how to do it and put in place procedures and policies; 6) don’t want to get sued or fired for a Tweet; 7) too much work to convince management and I won’t get paid more for extra effort, etc.  
Upon closer examination – these fears / issues can be solved – and most rational managements can be persuaded that engagement at a prudent level – is better than abstinence – and frankly lowers the risk of social media damage – rather than increase it.