JSE-listed companies are not taking advantage of the potential for Twitter to publicise and explain their financial results, or to help the financial community to better understand their businesses.
This is according to an FTI Consulting study to evaluate how effectively the JSE’s top 40 companies by market capitalisation use social media when they release their financial results.
This was the second time the organisation researched the adoption of social media as a corporate communications tool.  It found that while the number of companies with a Twitter handle has remained fairly static at 60% (compared to 59% in 2014) there has been an increase in the number Tweeting their results information.
In 2014 only 26% of the companies used Twitter as a mechanism to communicate their financial results. This figure has grown to 35% in 2015.
However, of those that have a Twitter handle, 25% aren’t using it as a platform to communicate their financial performance, which suggests that most JSE Top 40 companies aren’t exploiting social media fully.  Companies tend to use it to broadcast planned messages rather than to involve their audience in a genuine dialogue; and the majority of companies don’t interact with stakeholders online, respond to questions, share coverage nor do they retweet commentary.
In the UK, by contrast, FTI Consulting research shows that just 38% of FTSE 100 companies do not share their latest full or half year financial results on social media, with a substantial majority using this essential communications tool.  This figure is an improvement on six and 12 months ago, when 41% and 48% of companies respectively did not share their results on Twitter.
Larger companies are more likely to use Twitter than smaller or medium sized enterprises, according to FTI research.  It reveals that the average market capitalisation of JSE listed companies who Tweet is around R3,5-trillion, while the market capitalisation of non-Tweeting companies is approximately R1,5-trillion.  Of the JSE top 40 listed companies who have a Twitter handle, 14 said that they are Tweeting earnings results while 10 said that they weren’t.
The number of tweets that companies issue in relation to their results varies considerably with those in financial services the most likely to tweet more.  Typical of this group is Sanlam, which tweeted 16 times.  At the other end of the scale are companies such as Growthpoint, the largest listed property investment holding company on the JSE, and Standard Bank, both of which tweeted only once during the research period.
The survey found that the majority of those companies with a Twitter handle use the social media platform merely as a distribution network, tweeting links to a static, text-heavy press release on their web sites. These companies are failing to appreciate that Twitter is not a medium for distributing press releases but a platform to engage in discussions
Concerns about governance and regulatory requirements are another factor holding back companies from using Twitter and other social media. However, the JSE has made it clear that, as is the case with press releases and other media, releasing and commenting on results via Twitter is not a problem as long as the results have been posted on SENS first.
Many of the companies that use Twitter most effectively are listed on both the JSE and the London Stock Exchange, reflecting the greater acceptance by London based companies of social media.  SAB Miller, for instance has a relatively modest Twitter following but it has used the medium imaginatively, incorporating a short video about its half year results, which received also 1 150 views on YouTube.