Don’t let Social Media influence your strategy

Many executives spend way too much time monitoring activity on investor forums.

It can consume a great deal of time, and, unless you have a very thick skin, the regular and often baseless criticism executives cop can be draining and distracting.

The best option is to ignore it and don’t get distracted by the ‘keyboard warriors’. These people hide their identity behind fake names and their motives for agitation are never clear. They could be trying to push your share price lower to pick up cheap stock, or ramp the shares to offload a position.

Football coaches don’t select their team based on the views of commentators and online ‘experts’. In fact, you often hear sportspeople saying they don’t read commentary, analysis and social media so as not to be distracted.

In the same way company executives should not let social media commentary influence corporate strategy. Set a clear agenda and expectations for what investors can expect by establishing your corporate strategy, communicating it well, and delivering regular news flow on the execution of the strategy.

Investor forums do play a role in allowing exchanges of information and views and they can be useful to determine if a particular strategy or message is not resonating with shareholders. It is also important to monitor forums at times of unexplained price movements to determine if there has been any breach of disclosure regulations. But arguably, this could be best done by a Company Secretary, investor relations advisor or someone likely to be more removed from the personal criticism aimed at senior executives. By all means monitor for defamatory comments and report them.

Companies should avoid engaging directly with commentators on forums and online in general. Commenting on market rumours or speculation just opens a can of worms for listed companies.
Instead, try to encourage shareholders to contact the company directly with queries rather than asking questions online and having them answered by people who are not qualified to answer.

Having a managed approach to responding ensures consistent messaging on key issues. Citadel-MAGNUS can help craft responses or work with companies to build a live key issues document that captures all the current trends in questioning. (Do be as careful with responses as you are with ASX announcements, because they will generally end up being repeated on social media platforms.)

Another way to ensure you control the narrative is to consistently generate original content to keep the focus on your company’s key priorities – rather than getting into a battle of words with an anonymous commentator.

One of the most effective tools to use online is video. A 2-3-minute Q&A with the managing director, produced through Citadel-MAGNUS’ in-house facilities, can reach more eyes (and ears) than a release, and will certainly have a more lasting impact. Video can be used to amplify an announcement or ‘fill a gap’ in news flow.