IF YOU’RE looking for a good example of how corporate social media campaigns are rapidly overtaking traditional investor relations communications in both reach and effectiveness, look no further than Hewlett-Packard Company’s (NYSE:HPQ) announcement that it is acquiring Palm, Inc. (NASDAQ:PALM) for $1.2 Billion.
While HP’s announcement on April 28 was made via the usual website postings, PR wire release, analyst conference call, and regulatory filings, the most significant publicity and attention around the announcement was driven by the company’s digital corporate communications team.
By using a variety of social media channels, including microblogging service Twitter, social network Facebook, and document sharing services SlideShare and Scribd, HP’s web communications pros reached thousands of interested individuals and professionals, who in turn shared the information with thousands more of their online connections and readers.
A $1.2B deal in just 82 characters
News from HP about the deal first hit the social media world on Twitter at 4:08pm ET when HP’s @HPnews account, which has 16,500 followers, issued the Tweet shown below.
This message was ultimately re-shared hundreds of times over, reaching tens of thousands of people with the company’s message long before the mainstream media and Wall Street analysts had a chance to analyze the deal.
Although it is only 82 characters long, there’s a lot to take note of in that one short message. For starters, it is written in all-capitals. Generally, you should never use all-caps, but in this case the news was important and the capitals help to make the tweet stand out among the dozens of messages that compete for the average Twitter user’s attention at any given time.
The second thing to notice are the tickers $HPQ and $PALM. By including these in its message, HP was directing the news to StockTwits, a service built on top of Twitter that is primarily used by investors and traders. Including the dollar symbols and tickers resulted in any StockTwits users interested in either HP or Palm getting the news almost instantaneously.
Last but not least is the “tip @techmeme” part of the message. This is designed to alert the editors at the popular technology news aggregator Techmeme about the news. Since Techmeme is read by almost every technology journalist and blogger in the business, getting the news on Techmeme has the effect of spreading it more quickly and getting it picked up by scores of technology media websites and blogs.
The only negatives about HP’s initial announcement tweet are that it was about 3 minutes later than the actual news release, and it linked to the release on Business Wire’s website rather than to the version on HP’s own website.
Synchronizing the timing of announcements across all web channels is something I addressed in my recent post on social media and investor relations compliance. And linking to the company’s website rather than to a third-party site is key to companies developing their sites into recognized channels under the SEC’s Regulation FD guidance, as Google is doing.
As it turned out, however, Techmeme’s readers tended to favor the version of the release on HP’s website media section, so it soon become the most linked-to resource on the deal anyway.
Following its initial Twitter message, HP used Twitter to post updates about the analyst conference call and to provide links to media and blog articles about the acquisition until late into the evening. Most of these messages were also sent to StockTwits.
Uploads to document sharing sites
As part of its social media treatment of the acquisition, HP uploaded the deal presentation to the SlideShare presentation sharing website, while the news release was uploaded to the Scribd document sharing service (see embeds below).
The availability of these embeddable documents, which analysts, journalists, finance bloggers and anyone else can freely use on their own websites or blogs, was made known by HP via Twitter. HP cleverly copied both SlideShare and Scribd on the Tweets, and both services quickly made the documents featured content on their sites, exposing the information to thousands of their users.
As I write this, SlideShare is reporting that HP’s presentation has been viewed 5,200 times and embedded on 12 separate websites and blogs, including the highly popular Mashable website. Meanwhile, Scribd is reporting the news release has been read 1,000 times on the site.
Facebook: less fanfare
On HP’s official Facebook page, which has 66,000 fans, the news was treated with less fanfare. Two items were posted to the page’s wall, the first was a link to an article on the Engadget gadget news website and the second was a link to the SlideShare presentation.
Between the two, they attracted 155 likes and 46 comments from fans. It’s unclear to me why HP chose not to link to the official news release on the deal or use Facebook more deliberately given that the page has many more fans than the company’s Twitter account.
And HP’s IR website?
The most striking thing about all the web activity around the Palm acquisition is that HP’s traditional investor relations website barely registered as a source of information about the deal. Almost all of the traffic and third-party links to the company’s website were directed to the media section of the site rather than to the investor relations section.
For instance, Backtype shows that the deal news release in the media section of the company’s website attracted 1,734 tweets and 152 comments on various websites. Meanwhile, the news release in the company’s investor relations section received a paltry 21 tweets. Even sites like SlideShare and Scribd attracted more interest.
Clearly, social media is changing the nature of investor relations communications. IR departments might want to start paying attention.