Knowledge Publishing

Investor Relations: Audit your users, build relationships, grow your influence

Posted on | September 26, 2009 | Comments Off on Investor Relations: Audit your users, build relationships, grow your influence

Online Investor relations has embraced Social Media ever since the days of and the use of web forums and discussion areas. Over the last 5 years the use of analysts and web communities who publish ongoing blogs on their community websites has become the norm. The websites generally interact with a comments section or into a Forum that integrates into each blog. The use of Blogs, Forums, and email has dominated the online investor relations industry up until now. In today’s new economy and interactive market place, there are many other ways to create value for investors and companies online. Blogs, forums, and email are just a small piece of a larger ecosystem called the Social Media Ecosystem. The reality is that people are going to talk about your business no matter what, and therefore, as a public company there is a responsibility to design your own working Social Media Ecosystem and map it out to manage investors. The best way to do this is by building a communication strategy that incorporates the most well known venues for communications on the internet and then supplying leadership within those communities on your company knowledge, your industry, and your values.

The first step is to do a full internet audit of the company, and see which communities are engaged in discussions about your firm and which communities are not. It is important to document the communities and decide by a process of checks and balances, like a public company audit, whether you endorse those discussions, whether you are the thought leader in those discussions, and whether there is room for collaboration. Once the company has completed an audit of the internet uses (which can also be made into a disclosure statement) a social media marketing management plan is developed based on starting in communities of which you will be the first to enter on behalf of your company, and building on the community that may already be developing. This is truly the set-up stage, and even if your firm already uses 2-5 social networking tools, an audit will identify and prove that 90% of companies are still in the set-up phase.

Historically speaking, a community for investors such as forums is not as effective as getting investment from people who have subscribed to your newsletter or who have contacted the company directly. However, those who have communicated directly with the company via social media marketing tools often remain investors or invest. Therefore, the internet communities are effective only if there is a solid relationship built with time given to people online for educating users on your company and industry, engaging in discussions, collaboration with other groups to expand your network, and genuine assistance. The largest issue with the online investment world is the ignorance behind the model of building a relationship. Time and genuine assistance equals a relationship, however, to build a strong bond with the investors, you need to bring them along a system of relationship development to full engagement with your firm. You need to provide to them the knowledge to see you as a thought leader not just another investment, and create a tribe of advocates for your firm. If you take the wrong approach, and believe social media networks can just be jammed with messages and content on your firm, your company will be rejected and banned, “ostracized” and forever ineffective until proven worthy of being part of the ecosystem. Social Media is not about domination, it is about dominion and thought leadership. There is a process of becoming a thought leader on the internet, which is easier to explain on an individual basis, as the best analysis is that you become a thought leader one person at a time.

In this model of relationship development there are 5 stages, moving from having an internet presence to becoming a thought leader:

  1. Attraction Stage- you engage and interest an internet user either directly or by them joining your network
  2. Exploration Stage- the community begins to read your posts, you read theirs, you comment on similarities, and opinions, engage in a conversation, they begin to post supporting comments, join your other groups, networks, newsletters, etc, you may do the same with them.
  3. Development Stage- The user and yourself seem to agree and communicate in the same thought process, they read and agree with what you write, you both seem to be able to communicate together with opposing opinions and mold a relationship, at this point they are a friend.
  4. Commitment Stage- (Engagement Stage) The user begins inviting other people from their network to your network, the conversations begin to free flow between your firm and their group, and internetworking occurs where the entire network of associates now knows who you are. The user and associates are engaged with your firm, many consider investment, buying the product, referring business, as the door is now open.
  5. Unity Stage- (Advocate and Thought Leadership Stage) The user is now an investor, user of the product, a follower and refers others. The user comes to you and your group for advice, for comments, for information, and generally to chat. The user has invited their group of friends and attempts to engage them with your group and yourself to the same level. You are seen as a thought leader by this person, and this is how they communicate your involvement in their online presence, mindshare, and ecosystem.

(Based on Bill Gibson’s Five Stages of Relationship Development,

In the audit process, one of the questions will be who are your followers, at what stage are you with them, and which followers are you in the development, commitment, and unity stages. Moving forward, the goal is to set-up communities and begin to engage to get as many of your followers to be advocates, and interlink all of the networks you have built groups in with as many of their respective tools so that you fully engage their entire community with yours. The higher number of advocates and interlinking, the higher your ranking as a thought leader, as you benefit from the higher level of saturation with other users and networks.

We actually have a process of measuring engagement, which is part of the audit process and building the social media marketing management plan. If you are interested in having a social media audit done on your firm, and engage in the interlinking of your users with networks, please contact


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