WHILE investor relations departments in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the UK mostly shy away from using social media, there is a growing belief that new media will become increasingly important to their communications with investors in the next 12 months, a new survey has found.
The survey by the German investor relations association DIRK and international market research firm GfK polled more than 700 investor relations departments across the four countries. It found that relatively few are currently using social media in their IR programs, with only 12% German, 24% of Austrian and Swiss, and 26% of British IR departments saying they consider social media important or very important to their current IR activities.
However, going forward 71% of Austrian, 62% of Swiss, 61% of British and 46% of German companies expect social media to become important or very important to their IR programs in the coming year.
The survey results were released at DIRK’s annual conference in Frankfurt this week. The two-day conference, which attracted about 500 attendees, featured several sessions focused on technology, including two on social media.
PR leading the way
Across their entire organizations, 62% of Swiss companies reported using social media compared to 43% in Germany (59% among large-cap German DAX companies) and similar percentages in Austria and the UK.
Public relations departments were most likely to take the lead in corporate social media, with 8 in 10 respondents reporting that their companies’ PR units took the lead in establishing their social media strategies.
Half of all respondents rate journalists as the most important audience for social media communications, followed closely by individual investors and interest groups.
Less than one-third of all respondents considers analysts and institutional investors important or very important targets for social media. Respondents do not expect their audience priorities to change in the next two years. Last month, a survey of European investment professionals found that 86% view social media as being less important relative to other channels.
Across the four countries, social media is viewed as equally useful for engagement with stakeholders and for disseminating information, with only Swiss companies saying information dissemination is more important than dialogue.
My own observation is that companies in these countries have been among the pioneers in using social media for investor relations communications and generally approach new media with high levels of professionalism and clear intent.
Many have been using social media as supplementary channels for live events and earnings announcements, and they have been willing to interact with their audiences rather than merely broadcast information at them. At larger companies, some IR departments have established their own social media accounts rather than relying on general corporate accounts.
If the results of this survey come to fruition and many more European IR departments begin using social media in the coming year, I have little doubt that they will be the standard-setters for others to follow.