So here’s the deal: if you work for a public company and are interested in extending the application and use of Twitter for corporate news — this post is for you.
So late last week, our (Voce’s) client at eBay, Richard Brewer-Hay, decided to share the backstory on something eBay’s PR and legal teams have been chewing on for a few months now — and that’s the development of guidelines and a set of SEC disclosure best practices that outline how eBay (well, any public company, really) can successfully (err, legally) use Twitter to share material news.
If you read Richard’s post, you’ll see these guidelines were born out of his desire (and his history) of using eBay’s corporate Twitter account to “live tweet” the company’s quarterly earnings calls — something that’s been increasingly catching the attention of industry influencers, media, enthusiasts, etc, who wouldn’t otherwise have participated or tuned in to the actual earnings calls. And yes, as Richard indicates, this activity also, for better or worse, caught the attention of eBay’s corporate IR, PR and legal teams.
It turns out, this was for the better…
The easy, protectionist response would have been to just stop doing this, shut down the account and move on. But thankfully it didn’t, instead, the IR/PR/Legal groups within eBay all came together to figure out a way that concerns regarding disclosure and cautionary statements — especially pertaining to quarterly earnings calls — could all be addressed with the development of this simple legal page (which is now a permanant extension of eBay’s corporate blog, eBay Ink), and maybe more interesting, I think, are the ‘twitter sized’ (140-character) disclosure statements they co-developed. You can read them here.
While we all wait for the SEC to further bake its guidance for disclosure on the web, something it introduced at a surface-level last July, I believe what eBay’s done here might help shape and inform the SEC’s thinking in the interim, as well as provide other public companies with a good working model for material disclosure via emerging practices, like microblogging, livestreaming and the like…
Update: Domnic Jones of IR Web has some sound counter points regarding the archival of earnings information, be it in a company’s Twitter stream or otherwise. Shel Holtz also captures both eBay’s and IR Web’s perspectives on this news in episode #429 of For Immediate Release (show notes here).
Update 2: PRWeek just posted this short piece on the news.
Update 3: Man, this one’s evolving quickly. Yesterday, eBay put its new Twitter disclosure guidelines to work as part of its Analyst Day. IR Web has a great recap of that effort. As does PRWeek (again).
Update 4: The WSJ makes mention of eBay’s use of the web and Twitter.