WHEN Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) reported its third-quarter earnings last week it did so using a wide range of new and traditional media in a reporting event that shows how complex online corporate reporting has become with the advent of social media.
The event also marked the first time that the new StockTwits IR service has been used as part of an official earnings announcement. Also noteworthy is how the company’s official corporate blog featured prominently in the company’s reporting, generating substantial interest and page views.
In this post, we will walk through the events in the general sequence they occurred because they provide a blueprint of sorts for other companies looking to integrate social media into their quarterly reporting processes.
First blog post: a “quick reference” for what’s to come
On Wednesday, Aug. 18, the day before HP’s earnings were announced, Ethan Bauley, managing editor of HP’s official corporate blog, posted an item previewing how the company would be releasing information about its results. He called it a “quick reference guide” and it provided links to the various locations where the company would post the information, including StockTwits, Facebook, HP’s IR website, HP’s newsroom, Business Wire and the company’s corporate blog.
The preview blog post, which was viewed 586 times, also referred readers to HPs earnings preannouncement on Aug. 6, which had been somewhat overshadowed by the sudden departure of CEO Mark Hurd on the same day. The post was publicized on StockTwits and Twitter.
We really like this post because it tells investors what to expect and signals a strong commitment by the company to incorporate social media into its disclosure dissemination process. While many companies use social media channels to disseminate earnings information, HP is the first we’ve seen to formally incorporate social media into its reporting process in an announcement of this kind.
Breaking the news, keeping you posted
HP used an array of social media to report its earnings results. These activities are conducted in parallel to its traditional disclosure venues, such as a PR wire service, its IR website, company news room, SEC filings and the quarterly earnings call.
In general, information is posted to the social media accounts after it is has already been made public in the traditional venues. Ideally, disclosure should be simultaneous across all channels, but this will require companies to centralize control over their web communications and have access to better web publishing tools.
That said, HP’s corporate communications team executed well considering the complexity of the task at hand. Let’s take a brief look at the various social media the company used to communicate the results information to investors and other stakeholders:
StockTwits IR account and Twitter
HP was first to break the news about its results via its new StockTwits IR account. However, the first message about the results was still 70 seconds later than the official 4:30pm ET release time, coming at exactly 4:31:10pm ET. The same message was distributed from StockTwits to Twitter and appeared there six seconds later. Together, these messages generated 139 click-thrus via StockTwits and Twitter.
Again, disclosure should be simultaneous across all channels and we need vendors to begin working on this problem so that everyone gets the information at the same time regardless of which channel they use.
It’s also worth mentioning that the link in HP’s initial StockTwits and Twitter messages goes to a version on the release on Business Wire’s website rather than to the company’s own website. This is another example of how the real-time nature of today’s web has rendered traditional disclosure processes obsolete. Like thousands of other companies, HP outsources its IR website to Thomson Reuters, which in turn picks up its clients’ news releases from third parties before posting them to its customers’ websites.
HP could change this process by adopting Thomson Reuters’ new web disclosure product, which posts releases directly to the company’s website and then simultaneously to 200 media and web outlets. However, the Thomson Reuters product does not support simultaneous publication to social media accounts or to the SEC’s EDGAR database, although these likely will be added in the future, according to the company.
Following the initial announcement, HP posted several other messages to StockTwits and its linked Twitter account. These are shown in reverse chronological order in the screenshot below:
Second post on the official blog
Shortly after the results were announced, HP posted a second item to its official blog that provided highlights from its earnings release. This post was updated as new information was made available in the subsequent earnings conference call at 6:00pm ET. The post (see screenshot below) had received 1,389 views at the time of writing.
At 4:33pm ET, HP updated its Facebook page with the entry you see below. This linked to the second blog post mentioned above. HP’s Facebook page has more than 88,000 fans. The post generated 61 “likes” and 10 comments, split about evenly between positive and negative.
Shortly after the earnings call started at 6:00pm ET, HP posted the presentation on SlideShare. According to the public stats that SlideShare provides, the slideshow was viewed 88 times and downloaded twice. HP also embedded the Slideshow in its second blog post.
Wrapping it all up with a third blog post & a transcript
The day after the results announcement, HP posted a third item to its blog, which attracted 830 views. This time the emphasis was mostly on non-financial information disclosed during the previous day’s earnings call. HP also posted a transcript of the call on its IR website and on Scribd (see the embed below).
It’s interesting to see how HP’s approach differs to that of Cisco Systems, and also how much more complex online corporate reporting has become with the advent of social media.
We’re still in the early adoption phase of social media for IR, but HP is certainly one of the pioneers.