Have IR professionals lost their enthusiasm for social media?

This is a guest blog post from Sandra Novakov, a Director with Citigate Dewe Rogerson’s Investor Relations practice. Citigate Dewe Rogerson is the leading international consultancy specialising exclusively in investor relations, financial communications and corporate public relations.

Citigate Dewe Rogerson conducts an annual survey into investor relations trends across Europe and one of the topics which has yielded somewhat surprising results this year is the use of social media in communications with analysts and investors.

Looking back two years, when social media channels were expected to have a profound impact on the dynamic of communication between companies and their investors, it seems excitement levels have since dropped significantly.

The findings of our survey show a decline in the popularity of social media when it comes to five out of eight IR activities shown in the figure below. Whilst nearly all companies used these channels to publicise news and events in 2013, this figure has now dropped 26 percentage points, to 65%. Another notable change can be seen in the popularity of IR blogs – only 12% of IR teams use these to promote their views against 23% in 2013. So this is, somewhat ironically, an IR blog about the declining popularity of blogging in IR.

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Looking at trends in other IR activities, one thing is clear. The declining use of social media by IROs is by no means indicative of declining engagement levels with investors. When it comes to roadshow activity, 46% of companies are planning more meetings in 2015 compared to 2014. In particular, following several years of focus on continental Europe and Asia, there is a clear shift towards targeting US investors in 2015. In response to declining broker support when it comes to corporate access as a result of tightening regulations aimed at preventing fund managers from using dealing commissions to pay for services outside of research, companies are also taking greater control of investor targeting – only 5% rely solely on brokers and 24% are investing in either targeting tools, personnel, or both, with the aim of increasing their in-house competence. Furthermore, engagement at Board level is on the rise with a greater number of chairmen and non-executive directors seeing investors on a regular basis.Looking at the possible drivers of this trend, we see several contributing factors. Firstly, companies are increasingly more disciplined about their use of social media – 45% state they have a formal social media policy, against 38% in 2013. This undoubtedly slows down the process of issuing a tweet or publishing a blog, thereby restricting somewhat the effectiveness of such communication channels. Secondly, IROs have come to realise the significant time commitment that regular social media engagement requires leading some to the conclusion this is not the most productive use of their time. Thirdly, the extent to which investors value disclosure through such channels, in addition to the announcements and direct engagement they receive on a regular basis, remains debatable.

In addition to the greater frequency of contact, companies are engaging with investors on a broader variety of topics. The scale of engagement with investors on executive remuneration has almost doubled since 2014. In addition to board effectiveness and director tenure, which the majority of IROs across Europe touch on in their conversations with investors, our findings show that more than half of European IROs are engaged with investors on board diversity. Following the exponential rise in the number of information security breaches over recent years, a new topic to emerge on the agenda is that of cyber security. Given the significant financial and reputational impact of such events, investor scrutiny of companies’ preparedness for potential breaches is expected to increase going forward.

With rapid technological innovation and regulation-driven changes to corporate access and financial reporting, investor relations has entered a new era of opportunity and challenge. Now it is down to each company to make the best of use the new tools at their disposal and address the challenges they are facing.

About the survey

Citigate Dewe Rogerson first started investigating trends in investor relations in 2009 to gain insight into how companies were adapting to the uncertain times brought about by the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, our annual IR survey has gained a growing number of supporters, not least from IR societies across Europe including the UK IR Society, Germany’s Deutscher Investor Relations Verband (‘DIRK’) and IR Club. This has led to a record number of 193 IROs from Europe’s leading companies participating in this year’s survey to provide the most comprehensive insight to date into changing attitudes and practices from objective-setting, reporting and guidance to analyst coverage, investor and activist engagement to the changing use of technology.

The full report is available on our website at: http://www.citigatedewerogerson.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Citigate-Dewe-Rogerson-Investor-Relations-Survey-2015.pdf

502 thoughts on “Have IR professionals lost their enthusiasm for social media?”

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