DEUTSCHE EuroShop AG (DES), a Germany-based mid-cap company that invests in shopping malls across Europe, recently redesigned their corporate website to place a strong emphasis on social media as a way to improve communication with investors and other stakeholders.
The site is an interesting case study for companies that have already begun to incorporate social media into their investor communications programs, as well as for the many who are still trying to figure out what to do. The DES IR website shows how social media can be an integral part of a corporate website without doing anything particularly radical or spending a lot of money.
To be sure, what you absolutely do need is an understanding of the wide range of technologies available to you today, the vision to see how they can be tailored to fit your IR objectives, and the initiative to actually implement them.
DES’s head of IR and PR Patrick Kiss and Nicolas Lissner, manager of PR and IR, have all three prerequisites in spades. Importantly, both use social media personally as well as professionally (although the distinctions are blurring) which enables them to experiment with new tools in a personal capacity before deciding to use them in DES’s IR program.
A different kind of IR contacts page
A highlight on the new site is the IR contacts information, which makes the IR team amazingly accessible to anyone interested in the company. In fact, just in terms of traditional contact information, DES goes beyond what most companies provide, including direct email, phone and mobile numbers for both of the IR contacts.
With the new site, however, they’ve added a host additional contact channels, including personal Twitter, Facebook, Xing, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Skype. Their use of Foursquare, which is a social network built around physical locations, befits the company’s shopping center business, but I’m not sure how well it works as a contact channel.
Suggesting that analysts and investors connect with you on your personal Facebook account is unconventional. I suppose it’s a personal decision and depends on how comfortable you are about letting professional contacts into your personal space, and how personal that space actually is. If you have your party pictures and kids’ photos there, I wouldn’t do it unless it was someone I knew very well. Even in social media, there needs to be boundaries.
Tweets integrated with IR news
I like how DES has added their Tweets as a tab on their main IR news page. This is simple to do using a Twitter widget and costs nothing. From a compliance perspective, it’s a good idea because you’re putting your tweets in a place where investors are accustomed to looking for new information. Of course, they have to visit the news page and click on the Twitter tab to see the information. To push the information out to them, you could splice your tweets, or just specific ones marked with a particular #-tag, into a feed and push them out to subscribers via an Atom feed and email. I’m thinking here about reducing the risk of a Reg FD violation, which doesn’t apply to DES, but is very relevant to any US-listed company that is using Twitter.
SlideShare for presentations
The IR presentations page has the company’s latest investor presentation embedded in a SlideShare player at the top of the page. As I’ve said in prior posts, SlideShare is a no-brainer service for IR departments to use in addition to the standard PDFs of presentation decks. I can’t understand why more don’t use it because it’s free and adds tremendous value to the user experience. If you don’t want to use SlideShare, use SlideRocket, Authorstream, Scribd or Docstoc, but posting presentations only in PDF is incredibly low-rent and says to anyone who visits that you really don’t give a damn.
That said, I’m not enthralled with how DES uses SlideShare. They’re following the approach many others have taken, which is to only post the latest presentation in an embed and provide a link to others on the SlideShare website. Nothing wrong with that, but I much prefer to see each event have its own page with a SlideShare embed, a PDF version, a transcript, an MP3 player and an MP3 download all in one place. This way, you can provide multiple embeds on your site, and it’s more feasible to use slidecasts, which save you money and avoid links to expired webcasts by combining the MP3 recording with the SlideShare presentation. There are some examples of this approach in 10 examples of SlideShare for investor relations.
Investor relations blog
With their new site, DES has launched an investor relations blog called IR Mall. This is an excellent way for IR departments to provide additional information outside of their regular financial announcements. Think of it as IR departments becoming their own media outlets with the IR team as reporters.
The blog has only been online for a week and already Kiss and Lissner have posted four items. I particularly liked a post where Patrick Kiss has posted a YouTube video he shot of one of the company’s centers that is undergoing a major expansion. The video is rough, shot by hand and something corporate video purists will scoff at, but it’s a thousand times more effective than something polished and heavily edited.
Most IR blogs thus far have been stiff and dull and provide little value to analysts or investors. My bet is IR Mall is going to be different, and that analysts and investors are going to benefit tremendously from Kiss and Lissner as reporters on DES and its business sector.