SEC says companies may announce key data on social media

WASHINGTON, Wed Apr 3, 2013 — Regulators said on Tuesday that companies can use Twitter, Facebook and other social media to make key announcements as long as they tell investors which sites they will use, an effort to help companies navigate the new media age.

The guidance from the Securities and Exchange Commission seeks to clarify disclosure rules after the agency opened an inquiry into a post made last July on the personal Facebook page of Netflix’s chief executive, Reed Hastings.

The SEC investigated whether his announcement that the movie and TV streaming service had hit 1 billion hours viewed in June violated a rule that requires important information to be disclosed to investors at the same time.

The SEC said on Tuesday that it did not initiate an enforcement action or allege wrongdoing in that situation.

But it said staff learned that there was uncertainty about how disclosure rules apply to social media channels.

“One set of shareholders should not be able to get a jump on other shareholders just because the company is selectively disclosing important information,” George Canellos, acting director of the SEC’s enforcement division, said in a statement.

Francesca’s fires CFO over social media activity

HOUSTON, Mon May 14, 2012 – Women’s specialty retailer Francesca’s Holdings Corp. said it fired its CFO Gene Morphis after an internal probe found that he had improperly communicated company information through social media.

Francesca’s board launched an investigation with the assistance of outside counsel after it discovered the activity on May 11, 2012, the company said, without providing additional details.

“We acted immediately on Friday afternoon when we first became aware of the matter and have moved swiftly to replace Morphis based on the findings of the investigation,” the company said in a statement.

Morphis had served as the company’s finance chief since October 2010.

Francesca’s named Cynthia Thomassee, who has been with the company since 2007, as interim CFO.

The company, which went public in July 2011, also said the search for a new chief financial officer was under way.

The company could not be reached immediately for comment.

Francesca’s, which competes with chains such as Chico’s White House Black Market chain, Ann Inc.’s LOFT, and Urban Outfitter’s Anthropologie, also raised its first-quarter outlook to a profit of 17 to 18 cents, from 14 to 15 cents it had expected in March.

Coupon generator Groupon acquires Ditto.me social media apps specialist

CHICAGO, Wed April 18, 2012 – E-commerce coupon company Groupon has acquired Ditto.me, a mobile applications specialist providing social recommendations services.

Ditto.me said, without disclosing financial details, that it would terminate its previous services at the end of the month, but did not disclose what its future endeavours would be as part of Groupon. The company will also remove its application from Apple’s and Nokia’s stores.

Ditto’s service, started a year ago, facilitates the discovery through an application for mobile phones of new places such as restaurants and film theaters.

Groupon was established in 2008 and provides a daily offering of deals to its customers. It has approximately 10,000 employees. The company’s headquarters are located in Chicago and has an office Palo Alto, California as well as regional offices in Europe, Latin America, Asia and other territories.

The buyer carried one of the biggest Internet initial public offerings (IPOs) in 2011 which valued the company at $10 billion. Following the revision of its fourth-quarter 2011 results at the end of March this year, the company said that its net loss stood at $65.4 million while its revenue amounted to $492.2 million.

Dell-commissioned study reveals companies that listen realize business results

ROUND ROCK, Texas ― Companies that launch listening and digital engagement initiatives are rewarded with improved customer satisfaction scores, loyalty and brand metrics, according to a Dell-commissioned research study conducted by Forrester Consulting.

Results of the July 2011 study “Listening and Engaging in the Digital Marketing Age” on the state of social media in U.S. firms was released today. Forrester surveyed 200 medium and large U.S.-based marketers across three key industries, including high tech, media/entertainment and utility and banking services.

Forrester’s study revealed that while more than three-quarters of the companies surveyed monitor online conversations and respond to customer feedback through social media, only 20 percent of the survey respondents place social media at the core of their marketing plans.

Technology companies lead in integrating social media programs throughout their organizations at nearly double the rate of media and one and a half times the rate of utility and banking service organizations. Nearly all the companies surveyed have specific plans to increase their social media investments, with 73 percent planning to add employees focused on listening and engagement initiatives in the coming year.

While making strong progress, businesses are still lagging behind their customers, 80 percent of whom use social media:

  • 50 percent of companies surveyed say their social media efforts are serious but not a core function
  • 16 percent reward customers whose ideas they use
  • Only 6 percent claim that their companies’ listening and engagement initiatives are very integrated

But companies’ investment in listening is on the rise and the benefits are tangible:

  • 64 percent of respondents are incorporating customer feedback into products or services
  • 76 percent distribute customer feedback internally
  • 31 percent are enhancing sales by offering incentive programs for customers who engage online, including deals and discounts