Updated: See update at end of post.
BIG American banks are hardly innovators in the field of online investor relations communications, but Citigroup Inc. (NYSE:C) is breaking the mold by incorporating social media into its quarterly reporting.
The third-largest US bank is using Twitter, YouTube and its corporate blog in parallel with its traditional disclosure channels to disseminate information and provide opportunities for investors to engage the bank in dialogue.
Meanwhile, investors are taking it upon themselves to share Citi’s information on Facebook, where the bank has yet to create a formal presence. This post reviews what Citigroup is doing and looks at some next steps for the bank.
Twitter as an alerting channel
Citigroup’s main Twitter account was established on October 02, 2009 and has been verified by Twitter. The account has more than 5,900 followers while the bank follows more than 4,000 users. The bank actively engages with other Twitter users.
The tweet garnered 34 clicks, mostly from users in the UK and the US. It was retweeted by 4 other Twitter users while 4 other Twitter users independently tweeted links to the release on Citi’s website.
Worth noting is that Citi has created a customized short URL through Bit.ly’s Enterprise service ($995 per month), which means that when people link to its website on social sites, the links typically are shortened to a citi.us URL. There is nothing significant about this except that it makes it easier for the bank to track social activity around its website and confers a certain tech savvy to its brand.
Of course, investors looking at the above tweet may consider a gap of almost 4.5 minutes between the 8:00 am ET official release time and the 8:04:23 am ET tweet time as an unacceptable delay.
Citi can avoid such delays in future by scheduling tweets to placeholder pages on its website or by integrating its website better with Twitter, preferably through the API (the best option) or by using a Pubsubhubbub-enabled Atom feed and similarly-enabled RSS to Twitter service such as Dlvr.it.
CFO video on YouTube
At 9:13am ET Citigroup released a 3.5-minute video of CFO John Gerspach reviewing the quarter’s results (see embed below) on its corporate blog. The video is posted on YouTube and had been viewed just under 90 times at the time of writing.
The timing of the video’s release is interesting. It precedes the earnings call with analysts, which starts at 11:00 am ET, which means the video can help to frame the discussion with analysts on the subsequent call as well as address key issues Citi expects analysts to focus on.
The video is released only after Citi submits its earnings release and Quarterly Financial Data Supplement on a Form 8-K, which for Q1 2011 occurred at 8:23:19 am ET. Since the video is a communication by a covered executive for the purposes of Regulation FD, making it public only after the 8-K means that the executive is unlikely to be divulging any material, non-public information in the video. Of course, one could rightly argue that any information published in a YouTube video is unlikely to be non-public information for long, so the sequence isn’t critically important.
Citi does little to publicize the CFO video, which contributes to it being viewed must less often compared to similar videos by other companies. For instance, it’s not mentioned in the earnings release or referenced anywhere on the bank’s IR website. Outside of the blog, the only mention of it was on Twitter in the following message that was posted at 9:34 am ET and which was clicked 12 times and retweeted once:
Facebook, content sharing opportunities
While reviewing the various pieces of Citigroup’s quarterly disclosure information, I noticed that most sharing of the company’s information is happening on Facebook. That’s to be expected since Facebook is by far the largest social network. For example, this version of the bank’s earnings release was shared, liked and commented on a total of 19 times on Facebook.
However, since Citigroup doesn’t have a formal presence on Facebook, none of that activity is happening under the umbrella of the bank’s brand. There are several unofficial Citigroup pages on Facebook, including this one created by Facebook itself that already has attracted almost 7,000 fans.
Citigroup should consider creating its own Facebook page. While this will make it much easier for activists and detractors to target the bank, there are ways to mitigate against these by setting up the page to discourage nuisance posts.
The bank’s IR website also could make better use of content sharing services for its PDF and Excel content. The quarterly earnings call presentations, for instance, could also be made available on SlideShare, while the financial supplement also could be offered in an embeddable Excel web app. As things are now, only the company’s HTML earnings release is being shared on the social web.
For a large bank that is often a target of derision, Citigroup has taken some bold steps to becoming more accessible and approachable online. We look forward to seeing how its social media activities evolve over time.
Thing is, this Facebook page is not highlighted on Citigroup’s website, and with so many unofficial pages on Facebook, you can’t tell what’s official unless a company posts links to it on their known websites. Also, the page he refers me to doesn’t mention the results. Some buttoning down seems in order.
However, via the Facebook page that Eliason refers me to is a link to another Facebook page that does indeed include information about Citigroup’s earnings. It’s CEO Vikram Pandit’s page. Now that’s really interesting and adds a whole new perspective on what Citi is doing.
Also, if you visit Pandit’s bio on Citigroup’s website you’ll see a link there to his Facebook page, which is one way of verifying that the page is legit.
So, yes, I did miss an element of Citigroup’s social media activity, and a very important element as well.