Exchanges and Communications: The Future is Social

Author Name: 
Steve Bright

Whether it was among traders in Amsterdam, coffee house patrons in London or brokers under a buttonwood tree on the streets of New York, forms of communications have been the basis of exchanging – and exchanges – since the earliest days of trading.

Yet just as the nature of the assets traded – and the trading systems themselves – have changed dramatically since those early days, so, too, have the forms of communications evolved over time. From regulatory filings to media releases, speeches, market openings and newsletters, the universe of exchange-related communication is wider and deeper now than ever before.

And while it’s still about people connecting to other people, they are going about it in a much different way.

Enter social media to the world of exchanges.

The Rise of Social Media – A Snapshot

To illuminate the rising importance of social media among WFE members I researched the quantity and content of social media messages across three platforms – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook – for five exchange groups – NYSE-Euronext; NASDAQ OMX; CME Group; London Exchange Group and TMX Group.

For Twitter usage, I looked at the total number and the flavour of tweets by each of these five groups up to March 4th, 2013. I used the same date for creating snapshots of their respective use of Facebook and LinkedIn.

Looking into Twitter in this regard is very interesting.

For example, CME and NYSE-Euronext together had almost 99% of all the Twitter followers for this group. With 752,463 followers itself, CME had almost 75% of the total 1,014,371 followers.

It’s a similar – but slightly less asymmetrical – story with the number of tweets. In this case, CME and NYSE-Euronext make up 87% of all the tweets by the five groups since they first starting tweeting from their respective Twitter accounts.

Not surprisingly, exchange groups with the most number of followers had a high number of daily tweets – or “velocity of tweeting” – compared to the others. For example, in February CME had an average of 10.6 tweets per day (including weekend days) and NYSE-Euronext had 8.8. That compares to 3.3 tweets per day in February for TMX, and 0.4 daily tweets by LSE during that same month.

But these numbers don’t tell the whole story.

With so many followers, you would expect CME to have a commensurately high number of tweets and re-tweets because the levels of social media interaction become exponential as you get more followers.

You could also look at relative changes in the velocity of tweeting over time.

Take TMX for example.

Their velocity of tweeting increased from an average of 2.2 tweets per day in December to a daily average of 3.3 tweets in February – an increase of 50%. By comparison, the tweeting velocity of NYSE-Euronext over that same period dropped from 16.8 to 8.8 tweets per day.

There’s a caution here to be sure, as a small sample size and narrow date range cannot paint a comprehensive picture. In December, for example, NYSE-Euronext tweeted and re-tweeted 521 times, many of these being Christmas-related social messages along with market updates and other messages. In January they had 312 tweets and re-tweets and in February they had 246, thus suggesting a holiday-inspired bump.

However, these figures do clearly show that TMX is ramping up its use of Twitter.

As for content, what are these groups saying in their tweets?

Well, you see tweets and re-tweets about issuer milestones, industry news, market opinions, and social interactions in their respective tweeting flows. You also see more and more economic news such as job creation figures, GDP growth and interest rate decisions by central banks.

In addition to using Twitter, the groups are profiling their services, posting job openings and sharing industry news on LinkedIn. Taken together, there were 31,309 LinkedIn followers of these exchange groups as of March 4th, 2013. On Facebook there were 308,578 Likes on that date.

Then there’s the question of market demand for all this digital supply. That is, how do exchanges define their stakeholders for all the content that the exchanges themselves are disseminating?

“It’s a very broad church ranging from investors – institutional and retail, the media, the wider financial community, shareholders, employees and the political sphere,” wrote Tom Gilbert, Senior Press Officer at the London Exchange Group in an email for this article. “And with a brand as high profile as London Stock Exchange Group, the public at large are always a potential audience. Coupled with that, any activity has to be managed within the guidelines set by regulators as to how and when exchanges can communicate.”

Taking Stock of the Numbers

If you step back for a moment you see three different exchange groups with the highest numbers across the three different social media platforms.

As seen above, CME had the most Twitter followers and tweets.

On LinkedIn, NYSE had the most LinkedIn followers (at 12,921, or 41% of the total).

And NASDAQ had the most Facebook Likes, (with 203,703 or 66% of the total).

[The WFE itself is moving into this brave new world of social media. It has a rather modest but expanding number of tweets and Twitter and LinkedIn followers. Among those following the WFE are regulators, members, market participants and general members of the public.]

Regardless of the absolute figures, all five groups are expanding the overall scope and pace of their social media presence. They are also looking at these platforms through different lenses.

“LinkedIn is entirely different to Facebook, which in turn is very different to Twitter,” wrote Tom Gilbert. “Each has their merits and the challenge is how to tailor our communications to the medium.”

The Bigger Picture

But, again, playing a numbers game does not tell you the whole story. You have to step back even further to see the bigger picture. Indeed, you don’t want to lose sight of the forest for the tweets.

You could draw several conclusions in so doing. I’ll suggest three.

1. Context is Influential

The broader context in which these groups operate influences their social media adoption.

For example, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn were all invented in the United States, and Americans in general were early and very eager adopters of these innovative social platforms. [As well, Facebook and LinkedIn are listed on NASDAQ and NYSE and respectively.] This helps explain some of the social media adoption seen in the numbers above.

“Five years ago when we started with Facebook, it was an interesting experiment because we were seeing people who were our customers talking about the exchange and what was happening it the marketplace,” Allan Schoenberg, CME Group’s Executive Director of Corporate Communications, said in an interview late last year with the trade publication John Lothian News. “So it seemed to be a really good platform for us to see if social tools worked.”

From a comparatively early start, CME expanded significantly into social media. CME content distributed to an ever-rising number of social media users generated more connections and more usage (not to mention more content).

In other words, elements of the so-called network effect are in play when you consider the use of social media by CME, NYSE-Euronext and NASDAQ OMX. They operate in highly digitized social and economic environments, and they embraced and became leaders in social media as a result.

That’s not to diminish the extensive uptake of social media by TMX and LSE, of course. But the fact is that the comparatively advanced social media experiences of CME, NYSE and NASDAQ reflect the context in which these exchanges have been traditionally based.

2. Social Supports Strategy

The internal context of exchanges themselves is also important. That internal context can be defined in two ways – marketing and communications strategy and the overall corporate strategy, with the former designed to drive the latter.

At the London Stock Exchange, social media is a growing area of focus in their marketing and communications strategy, where that was not the case a few years ago.

“Five years ago, social media probably would not have factored in our thinking on marketing or communication,” wrote Tom Gilbert. “Today it’s an integral part of any announcement we make and a focus for monitoring what is being said about our brand and our markets.”

For CME, creating and distributing more content about market-based activity in Europe supports their corporate growth in that market.

“That’s pretty exciting because it’s a good marriage and tie-in with the growth of CME Group in Europe as well as what’s happening from the news perspective,” said Allan in that trade media interview. “So we can tie the two together and really do a good job of creating awareness and education about CME Group.”

Meanwhile, NYSE Technologies, the technology division of NYSE Euronext, announced an agreement this past February with Social Market Analytics (SMA) that will allow NYSE Technologies to distribute sentiment statistics from SMA's social media monitoring engine to its financial services community.

“Everyone is monitoring what is being said on Twitter now,” said Tom Watson, Vice President, Global Market Data, NYSE Technologies in the news announcement. “SMA offers firms the right tool for the job with data that consists of clear, quantified, actionable intelligence on social media sentiment. We believe this will change the way the financial sector thinks about social media. For the first time, trading firms, brokers, asset managers, and non-financials in every sector will have a measureable way to track the sentiment of the social media stream of consciousness.”

This deal comes shortly after NASDAQ bought the investor and public relations unit of Thomson Reuters late last year. These units help companies communicate with investors and media and create and distribute video presentations. The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approval, will therefore give NASDAQ an increased capacity to provide insight, analytics and communications solutions to more than 7,000 clients worldwide.

In short, social media is taking on increased importance within marketing and communications strategies, as well as corporate strategies, for its ability to help generate revenue.

3. The Future is Social

Social media is about building brands and boosting bottom lines. And regardless of how far along exchanges are in their respective journeys, it’s clear that they are all moving toward a social media horizon.

Consider the power of video – and YouTube specifically – in engaging stakeholders through compelling visual stories. Many exchanges are posting videos of their morning market opens, as well as executive interviews, in highlighting their issuers and the exchanges’ intellectual capital and thought leadership.

This makes perfect sense, especially given that exchanges are information companies, among other things. So look for much more video in the expanding social media mix of exchanges in the short to medium terms.

As well, keep an eye out for more exchange-related apps for people on the move. And as lines continue to blur between earned media and promoted content, the information generation that is inherent to exchanges will translate to greater stakeholder demand for the digital supply that exchanges are creating.

You could also think of it this way.

More and more people interested in exchanges – be it trading, market data or news of the day – are now found sitting with tablets in coffee shops and walking down streets with their smartphones.

In that sense, then, exchange communications have come full circle to those early days in Amsterdam, London and New York. And social media for exchanges is here to stay.

 

Steven Bright is a Toronto-based writer with almost 20 years of experience in communications. He was Director of Public Affairs for the then-TSX Group from 2002 to 2007. Steven’s website is www.stevenj.bright.com. He can be found on Twitter @brightsteven22 and on LinkedIn.

Table 1

 The exchanges are listed in alpha order.

Exchange

# of Twitter followers

% of total*

# of tweets*

% of total*

# of LinkedIn followers

# of Facebook Likes

CME Group

752,463

74

22,975

53.2

12,027

16,944

London

809

0.8

254

0.6

303

284

NASDAQ OMX

7,344

0.7

3,625

8.4

4,760

203,703

NYSE – Euronext (US)

252,395

25

14,632

33.8

12,921

87,616

TMX

1,360

0.13

1,738

4.0

1,298

31

TOTAL

1,014,371

100**

43,224

10

31,309

308,578

 

* Based on total out of these five exchange groups as of March 4, 2013.

** Exceeds 100% based on rounding.