Goldman Sachs has decided its earnings are something to tweet about.
Next week, when the bank releases its third quarter earnings, Goldman (GS) said it won’t do it via Business Wire, the press release service it has long used. Instead, it will use a combination of social media and its own website. The announcement will come via Twitter with a link back to a press release on its own site.
The switch makes sense for Goldman. Tweeting its news and putting it up on its own website should avoid the glitches associated with having a middle man. And Business Wire has proved to be leak prone. Last year, the company had to stop selling a service that offered direct access to high frequency traders after it was highlighted as unfair. In August, the SEC charged a number of traders who got early word on a number of deals via hacks into news services, like Business Wire.
It’s also good news for Twitter, which is still figuring out how to make money. If companies think Twitter is a better place to announce their earnings then, as Matt Levine points out, that should be something that Twitter could charge for. If Business Wire can charge for that service, why can’t Twitter?
Then again, Goldman may be using Twitter because it’s free. Also figuring out what Goldman should be charged to tweet and when it can use the social network service for free might get a little dicey, but it nonetheless is another vote that Twitter has value.
But when it comes to earnings, Goldman and others should be careful what it tweets. Earnings releases are monitored by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Companies are allowed to report earnings as they like, and more and more companies do. But if they decided to use a non-standard way to report profits—say, exclude the cost of stock options, or one-time expenses, which more and more companies are doing—they are required to also disclose earnings figures that comply with standard accounting rules. That’s easy to do in a long press release, but might be harder to do in 140 characters.
It’s not clear if the SEC has given Goldman or others guidelines on how to report their earnings on Twitter. The SEC did not return a request for comment. But the fact that Goldman is still putting out a press release should mitigate some of the disclosure issues. And investors will eventually dig through the number.
Still, in the age of high frequency trading, how the bank words its tweet will likely move the stock, and possibly set the tone for how the market reacts to its earnings report. And Goldman might be tempted to gussy up its earnings this quarter. Analysts expect that profits in the third quarter will be down 3% from a year ago, and down 20% from the prior three months. Note to Goldman’s Twitter manager: you might want to focus on the former.