LAST week’s post about 10 companies that used Twitter as part of their recent quarterly earnings announcements generated a lot of interest, so we thought we’d look at one company that we didn’t mention because their activity occurred after we compiled the list.
Aviva plc (NYSE:AV), the UK-based insurance and financial services giant, has long been a pioneer in using the web for investor communications, and it has now taken to Twitter like a duck to water.
Importantly, and this is a lesson many companies can learn, Aviva’s Twitter activities add something new that investors cannot get from its investor relations website.
Let’s take a detailed look at how they used Twitter for their half-year results last week:
1. The results are out!
At 7:00 am London Time (UTC 06:00:00) on Thursday, August 5, Aviva released its results for the first six months of 2010 to RNS, the company news services of the London Stock Exchange.
Almost 44 minutes later (UTC 06:43:51) the tweet you see below was posted to Twitter.
Why the big delay tweeting the announcement? Because Aviva did not manually post the tweet, it relied on Twitterfeed to automatically tweet the news when it was added to the company’s website feed.
Aviva can speed up the posting from its website feed to Twitterfeed and on to Twitter by using the Pubsubhubbub protocol in all of its feeds. Instead of 44 minutes, we’d be looking at a difference of a few seconds.
I’d also recommend looking at Dlvr.it if you’re doing RSS to Twitter posting. There are other alternatives to speed up automated tweeting, but I like Pubsubhubbub-enabled feeds because they have many benefits far beyond Twitter.
2. Re-Tweeting the news
At 8:58 am London Time (UTC 07:58:13), Aviva re-tweeted a tweet by @standardcity, which is a Twitter account that automatically tweets business headlines from the London Evening Standard, again via Twitterfeed. It’s unclear if the newspaper controls that account or if someone else set it up.
In case you’re wondering, re-tweeting is when you forward someone else’s message to your followers. Under securities laws, it could be construed as a form of endorsement so balance is called for.
The tweet below was one of three re-tweets or RTs by Aviva on the day of the results announcement. The others were this one retweeting a message by @Spreadex, a financial trading platform, and this one forwarding a message by @fortraders, a website for traders.
None of these three RTs are particularly noteworthy, other than being an effective way for Aviva to demonstrate that it is actively participating on Twitter rather than just pushing out information to it.
3. Look what they’re saying about us!
In addition to re-tweeting other tweets about the results, Aviva also used Twitter to refer followers to media coverage of the results. In this case, Aviva didn’t just tweet the headlines, they took quotes by analysts and fund managers mentioned in the stories. Again, doing this is fine as long as you’re willing to do the same thing when the comments are negative.
The first of these tweets (below) came at 9:06am (UTC 08:06:39), which attributed a quote by analyst Eamonn Flanagan of Shore Capital to an unlinked Bloomberg article.
It’s unclear why they didn’t link to the article because it was available online. Space constraints might have been a factor because the tweet is exactly 140 characters, the maximum Twitter permits. Still, with a bit of editing they could have squeezed in a link and made the tweet seem less promotional and more like a service to followers.
Another such tweet came later that afternoon London time, at 3:36pm (UTC 14:36:18), when Aviva tweeted a quote from an article by the Wall Street Journal’s Heard on the Street column. This time they included a link:
It’s worth noting that none of the articles or quotes is posted on Aviva’s investor relations website. If you want to know about them, you have to use Twitter. This shows how Twitter can be used to add value to traditional web reporting by providing a real-time stream of related information that might be of interest to investors, journalists and finance bloggers.
4. A promise of future performance
I’m stepping out of sequence a bit because I want to draw attention to this tweet. Between the earlier Bloomberg tweet and the WSJ one, Aviva issued the tweet below, which clearly is a forward-looking statement subject to all kinds of risks and uncertainties. However, it’s not accompanied by any cautionary language so there’s no safe harbor here.
Of course, there’s no way to include disclaimers in 140-character tweets. The best you can do is link to them, which may or may not be enough depending on your definition of “accompany.” I’ve addressed on IR Web Report before how disclaimers could be attached to tweets via “meta content.”
There is hope that Twitter’s announced “annotations” feature could provide the ability to attach disclaimers to tweets, but ReadWriteWeb reported recently that the feature isn’t coming anytime soon. A partial solution may also come from StockTwits, who I have been helping with a new product tailored to IR departments.
Anyway, until we have a solution, tweets like the one below are somewhat risky if it turns out that the company isn’t able to deliver.
5. Analysts say the darndest things
They say you should always close on a high note and that’s what Aviva did with the following tweet that ended the day’s tweeting at 4:10pm London time (UTC 15:10:25). Sweet isn’t it?