How Social Technologies Can Smooth The Road To IPO

The following is a guest post from Deirdre Walsh. If you’d like to contribute thinking here, please read the guidelines.

An IPO is not just one of the most important marketing events in a company’s history. It’s also one of the biggest tests of a company’s ability to orchestrate and manage communications, internally and externally.

Going public means juggling all sorts of legal requirements, investor sensitivities, and strategic concerns—while still keeping a steady flow of information going out to a public eager for the latest news. The stakes are obviously huge, and the room for error is tiny.

It’s a use case made-to-order for Social Business technologies, which provide a way to centrally coordinate communications, sync up all participants and make a potentially stressful process much more manageable. That was certainly true in our case at Jive Software. When we completed our own public offering this past December, the successful outcome was due in no small part to our heavy reliance on social tools (including our own).

In the hopes that our experience might have some lessons for companies in similar situations, here are some of the ways we applied social to our own IPO marketing. While every company may not have an upcoming IPO, the benefits we received from the use of social technologies translate well to any big marketing campaign or event.

Syncing up internally

An IPO requires tight teamwork among executives in multiple departments, from finance and legal to marketing and PR, as well as outside partners and contractors. Our internal employee community served as a hub for collaboration, allowing key players to brainstorm and keep each other updated moment by moment. Participants hashed out critical decisions in online discussions, shared docs and other content, and quickly located internal experts to answer pressing questions. Just as important, the community allowed for strict privacy controls and permissions, ensuring that sensitive information was shared only with authorized individuals inside and outside the company.

During major checkpoints, such as filing the S-1 statement, our CEO, CFO and Chief Legal Counsel kept staff informed via executive blogs. Every new post was simultaneously available to all of our worldwide employees, who could respond with their own questions and comments, for a kind of quick and informal give-and-take that would have been difficult or impossible using more rigid, non-social communications.

Managing external communications

After an S-1 is filed, companies are subject to a variety of SEC rules, governing both internal policies and external communications. It’s absolutely essential that employees “get the memo” because SEC regulations make little distinction between official company communiqués and casual statements from staff. Everyone has to speak with one voice.

Our internal community made it easy for us to disseminate policies, hold company-wide conversations and collectively train our workforce in the necessary messaging and practices. And that, in turn, enabled us to communicate more consistently and clearly with external audiences, including press, financial analysts, and potential investors.

Tracking social media

Throughout the entire IPO process, we used our social media monitoring technology to track all the relevant buzz on the social web. We monitored social networks and sites for corporate mentions; to identify key influencers and PR opportunities; and quickly uncover conversations impacting our brand.

Acknowledging customers

Our customers were key stakeholders during the public offering. They helped build the company to this point, and were keenly interested in our progress. We kept them informed at every step of the journey with blog posts and other communications in our public-facing Jive community, where customers were also able to hold their own conversations about the IPO. We made a special point to thank them for their support, posting a banner in the community acknowledging their role and displaying customer tweets and videos. And on listing day (December 13), we streamed the opening ceremony live for customers and other community members.

Celebrating, socially

An IPO is incredibly hard work, and when a company makes it to the finish line, celebrations are in order. Since not everybody could be present in New York on listing day, we did decided to bring the event to them in a novel way. We created a unique Twitter hashtag – #jiveipo – and invited folks to join the online conversation. Then we gathered and displayed the tweets on the 7-story NASDAQ building in Times Square as the exchange opened with the new JIVE symbol on the ticker. It was a NASDAQ first, and a fun finale to a process that was social from beginning to end.

If you’ve used social during the road to IPO, we’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you’re about to go through the process we hope our experience can serve as a guide.

Deirdre Walsh is an award-winning program manager with a decade of digital media, integrated marketing, online community, and corporate communications experience. Currently, she is the Sr. Social Media Manager for Jive Software, which brings the innovation of the consumer web to the enterprise.

image credit: gary yim /