What we learned from BIWA10: part 2
08 March 2011
The strongest new trend evident was the rise of so-called ‘ethical marketing’.
For several years the number of sites in the NZX50 appealing to the social and environmental conscience of investors has been increasing. In BIWA10 half the sites use either social or environmental responsibility as a plank of their investor and customer relations strategies.
Appealing to the conscience of investors is not a new trend, but recent events, including the crisis of world banking and continued concern over climate change have made major corporations even more keen on ‘green-washing’ and related strategies.
Of the 25 sites, ten specifically featured only ‘social responsibility’ (including sponsorship and charity initiatives), while eight featured only ‘environmental responsibility’ (including sustainability initiatives). Seven sites included both these elements.
Significantly, this was especially true of new designs. Of the 15 new site designs in 2010, 12 included either or both social and environmental initiatives.
Clearly, this trend is now seen as part of a successful approach to online investor relations. The PR benefits are clearly seen as worth the investment in adopting these strategies which are not directed at maximising profit, but rather at attracting investment.
‘Social media’ are not yet important in NZ online investor relations.
The BIWA10 was the first time that we surveyed the NZX50 sites to see how many were using Facebook, Twitter and blogging to enhance communication with investors. We found that unexpectedly, despite media coverage of these new tools, only eight sites in the NZX50 use one or more of these ‘social media’:
- five used Facebook
- four used Twitter
- and three were blogging about corporate affairs.
The use of social media is not related to a high BIWA score. The companies using these tools to communicate with investors are not those who are already maximising their web presence to communicate with this audience. In other words, listed companies in NZ have yet to successfully harness the communication power of these new interactive strategies.
Some companies clearly used social media to communicate with customers (rather than investors), but this happens outside the corporate sites that we are surveying. Only when they are used for targeted investor communication will these tools become more widespread in the NZX50 sites. And this will only happen when listed companies become more accustomed to focusing their online strategies on communicating with potential and actual investors.
At present, given the number of NZX50 listed companies with below-par websites, it’s only fair and reasonable that they should avoid social media. Until they succeed in mastering the basics of online communication, a move into the riskier waters of Facebook and Twitter will only expose their shortcomings to public scrutiny.