eBay took a bold move yesterday, using Web 2.0 tools for investor relations. During its first analysts’ meeting in three years, eBay management had a live twitter stream with live coverage of the meeting and bloggers with just less than live coverage of the meeting.
The securities industry seems to be struggling with Web 2.0 tools. (In fairness, most industries are struggling to with Web 2.0 tools.) Blame uncertainty about these relatively new tools. Blame securities class action law suits. Blame the SEC for a lack of guidance. It looks like eBay was tired of excuses and decided to jump into the world of Investor Relations 2.0.
An article from Dominic Jones of the IR Web Report caught my eye: SEC Disclaimers in the Age of Twitter. Was eBay really going to use Twitter as part of its investor relations? YES.
Apparently Richard Brewer had already been live-tweeting eBay’s quarterly earnings conference calls. Management knew he been using his eBay Ink Blog to report the quarterly earnings results, but were unaware of his use of Twitter. He was called in to meet with the lawyers. But rather than shut him down, they worked out some best practices. They came up with New Social Media Guidelines for Reporting Company Information.
“Plain and simple, eBay Inc. is a public company and, as such, must comply with SEC regulations. We feel that these guidelines will make that compliance more transparent. What follows is by no means a final set of micro-blogging/live-blogging best practices for companies but it is a step – and a very significant one at that. Something that I realize I will have to refine and evolve over time.”
That seems very sensible. The SEC’s Guidance on the use of company web sites (SEC Release 34-58288) does not give the clearest guidance but certainly opens the way for public companies to use 2.0 tools as part of their investor relations.
Richard kicked off his live Twitter coverage of the meeting with the new disclaimer crafted just for Twitter:
Which included a link to the a longer legal disclaimer. Its more than 140 characters, but still very concise.
An interesting thing about Twitter is the ability to tag the updates, allowing others to follow on that same topic. Richard used #ebayinc. This allowed you to follow not just Richard’s updates, but all of the reactions to Richard’s updates.
Richard also compiled the twitter updates into a traditional blog post: eBay Inc. Portfolio Roadmap Preview by John Donahue. (Did I just call a blog post traditional?)
With all of that live information and feedback, eBay’s regular investor relations page looks very cold and lifeless. It does not seem to have as much information. Perhaps it is even less relevant?
In the end, Web 2.0 tools are just communication tools. They are not that different than traditional read-only web pages or email. They do allow for easier, faster and more robust communications. You can see the difference in the comparison between the traditional eBay Investor Relations website and the eBay Ink 2.0 website.
How is your company using web 2.0 tools for investor relations?