January 20, 2011

Time for You to Consider Tweeting? The IR Pros Are…

Last year, I passed along my sour grapes about spending time on Twitter as I felt the effort wasn’t worth the reward because most of our community was not participating (here’s a related blog about the importance of face-to-face networking). But as Dominic Jones breaks down this report from Q4 Web Systems on his IR Web Report, it appears the acceptance level of Twitter by IR departments is reaching some sort of critical mass (and in this follow-up blog, Dominic notes that tweeting has become so popular that IROs need to work harder to get noticed). And if that’s the case, outside lawyers better get up-to-speed with what Twitter is – and isn’t – so they can have intelligent conversations with their clients.

As Dominic relates in the excerpt below, the use of IR web pages to promote the use of Twitter by IROs has been mixed, without a valid reason to do so:

The report highlights a key issue with current corporate use of social media – a lack of visibility for companies’ social media accounts on their websites. While all of the surveyed companies have Twitter accounts, the report says almost 40% do not post a link to the channel on their websites. This likely understates the situation because the study authors are flexible on what constitutes a link on the corporate website.

The authors say that in their discussions with companies “some prefer not to include Twitter on their website as they are still ‘testing’ the channel.” The report rightly recommends that companies acknowledge the existence of their Twitter accounts on their websites. Without a link on the company website, it is difficult for users to verify the Twitter account as legitimate. And while companies my believe that not acknowledging their social media accounts on their websites shields them from liability, in reality they are still liable.

And it’s clearly not just IROs taking to social media, check out Dominic’s blog about how a CEO recently responded to a short-seller on the increasingly popular Seeking Alpha.

Not that I don’t find Twitter valuable myself, but I figured I would appeal to the fact that clients are using social media as a way to convince our community to start using social media. Social media is here to stay folks. You’ll need it to work – and to play. Don’t be one of those people that thought the Web was a fad back in ’97 (or that television was one back in ’58). Here’s some good info on how to use Twitter…

What Would Corporate Secretaries Blog About? Plenty

As I continue to beat the drum about how the future will see many more lawyers, IROs and corporate secretaries blogging, I often get the question: “well, what would I blog about?” I think this recent blog by Microsoft’s Deputy GC John Seethoff – entitled “Responding to Shareholder Input on Executive Relocation Policy” – is a perfect example of what a good corporate secretary could be blogging about.

In five paragraphs, not only does John explain a change to the company’s relocation policy – more importantly – he provides an example of how his company is engaging shareholders. My guess is that this will provide comfort to other shareholders (and potential investors) about the willingness of the company to listen – and likely would lead to more shareholders being willing to voice their concerns directly to management rather than go the activist route. As you can see, it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to blog (ie. five paragraphs is just a few minutes and then I imagine, there was a brief review by others) – and the resulting pay-off can be quite large for such a small burden.

How Not to Tweet: Law Firm Styling

On Twitter, I follow a few of the first law firms that started tweeting. As expected, their tweets were so bland that I can’t recall a single one as having any value. They were all about the latest hires they had – and which deals they worked on. Stuff not significant for me (nor clients or potential clients I imagine).

Which is why when I recently saw a law firm open a Twitter account and excitedly send an email that said “Following us on Twitter provides immediate access to market information that can impact your business,” I took a gander at what they had been tweeting – even though I had a pretty good hunch what their feed would be about. Sure enough, it was mostly about their own internal movings and shakings and little about anything that someone outside the firm would really care about (and merely tweeting the latest law firm alerts isn’t much better – Twitter needs the human touch). Why most firms can’t figure out how to communicate effectively by placing themselves in their client’s shoes is beyond me…

– Broc Romanek