Some companies only make ripples on social media when they report their financial earnings. Others get stakeholders talking — and tweeting. What do they know that others don't?
When it comes to reporting financial results to the public, corporations have their old standbys: conference calls and press releases. But a fresher mode of communication is sending stakeholders atwitter: Companies are now using social media, which long ago revolutionized sales and marketing practices, to disseminate earnings information in creative and provocative ways. The 2017 Edition of FTI Consulting's Social Divide Index, which looks at the performances of every company within the FTSE 100, reveals the right mix of social ingredients some used to send engagement soaring.
How much higher has engagement gone? FTI Consulting's Index — its fifth annual edition — shows a startling 105 percent increase1 over the previous year in interactions with results-related content from FTSE 100 companies posted through Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and SlideShare. The methodology for measuring engagement relied on three elements related to posting: volume, quality, and impact.
This increase is not uniform, however. A full 42.5 percent of engagement occurred among four companies: Diageo, British Petroleum (BP), GlaxoSmithKline and Tesco.
What sets these top performers apart?
Beyond strategically planning for the information release, they effectively leveraged a variety of messaging styles — often synchronized across platforms — to speak to their audiences. Some used engaging and colorful infographics to package up data and catch the eye of end-users. Others used repetition to extend reach by repeating the exact same tweets during the day or week. Still others invested in rich media to showcase their originality.
It's a bit of digital science mixed with art.
Drawing on the collected wisdom and examples from these top performers, here are five techniques companies can consider for creating a social buzz around their numbers.
Think Ahead and Think Big Picture
Audiences today have a huge appetite for rich, visual content. To stand out from the influx of competing social posts, results content must be more than agile; it should convey information beautifully and effectively to quickly grab attention. Diageo has this down to a science.
As seen here, the multinational distiller, implementing a single theme throughout the infographic, makes for compelling presentation. Bold headlines and color schemes and straightforward copy are all elements of a successful image campaign as well. Given the quick turnaround needed for results releases, visuals can be produced prior to the announcement or even repurposed from other corporate materials, with figures added just prior to release.
Lean on Internal Stakeholders
Promoting results through employee advocacy can get the ball rolling. A review of retweets and likes of results-related posts for the grocery/retailer Tesco revealed that a significant portion of interactions came from the company's employees. Typically, internal stakeholders are inclined to be supportive and can be an asset for organic engagement. Through stakeholders, companies can create a virtual network of advocates around an announcement that will drive traffic to social posts.
Leverage your core advocate base by notifying employees and stakeholders of an announcement in a timely manner. Be sure to establish clear social media engagement guidelines for employees. (Do: Retweet and like official content. Don't: offer commentary and analysis.) The goal is to present financial reports succinctly.
Diversify Your Approach
An effective social strategy employs various methods to expand the scope of the audience. Insurance giant Aviva used the broad landscape of rich media content — hyper-lapse video, live stream, infographics, fact cards, quote cards, photos and more — to effectively communicate company results. By showcasing its breadth and depth of multimedia, Aviva offered stakeholders a smorgasbord of content that's both engaging and shareable.
Consider originality: Rather than go for the quick and simple option of a pre-approved corporate photo or a stock image, the ROI of investing in original content makes the difference between your message being read and engaged with versus being scrolled right by.
Consistently Post Consistently
In a crowded field of messaging, appearing at the top of a Twitter feed with the identical message repeatedly is not necessarily a bad thing. BP reposts several times throughout the day. When you consider that the average lifetime of a single tweet is just 18 minutes, this technique extends the shelf life of the message through greater exposure. It also allows a communications team to focus on other aspects of a results content campaign and reaches audiences in different time zones without additional investment in social media content production.
Master the Social Dialect
The good news: You finally mastered the use of "LOL." The bad news: Now there's ICYMI, QOTD, AMA, CTA, and so on. Unfortunately, there are no Google translation tools for the ever-evolving social media lingo, which can be overwhelming and go stale seemingly as you're typing. But being able to read between the letters is a must for companies who want their messaging to translate.
Communicating in social colloquialism will make corporate messaging more familiar and accessible to today's audiences. Jargon-heavy content in a report can be reworked by turning long-form white pages into bite-sized visual posts and integrating trending keywords such as DYK (Did You Know) and ICYMI (In Case You Missed It). In time YWGT (You Will Get There).
For companies that are serious about grabbing eyeballs through social media to tell their corporate story, drawing out a timeline is key. After setting an accouncement date, make plans just as for any other project that includes a content schedule well ahead of release date. Today's digital world is ripe with opportunities for companies willing to tailor their messaging. With a robust kit of social tools and the right timing, businesses can turn opportunities into action and generate higher rates of engagement. Now, that's something worth sharing.
This article first appeared in IR Magazine on August 14, 2017.
1. FTI Consulting analyzed the social media activity of each FTSE 100 constituent on four platforms most relevant, in our view, to corporate and financial communications – Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and SlideShare – at the time of its latest full or half year results announcement. The identified results-related activity was measured using three metrics: volume, quality and impact. Scores were given for each component, which in turn generated an aggregate score.
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