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LinkedIn revenue forecast falls short of targets

Tim Post/The Associated Press

Even before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission gave its blessing to social media as a way to share company news, executives in the United States were using social media to research potential takeover targets.

Such websites as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook were used to investigate companies involved in transactions by nearly half of the respondents to a survey by law firm Fasken Martineau on the use of social media in mergers and acquisitions. The study found 36 per cent of the executives used social media to do research on potential targets.

But just because they're cruising online, doesn't mean deal makers trust the information they're getting. They actually see social media as a fairly unreliable source of news, the poll found.

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And that could be why those on Bay Street and Wall Street are just dabblers in social media. The study found 77 per cent of respondents have no social media strategy for M&A, and almost as many didn't think that having a plan would make a difference to their businesses.

The respondents, who were predominantly American but included some Canadians, mainly use LinkedIn. Twitter, though favoured by media and some tweeting CEOs such as Mr. Hastings or ING Direct Canada CEO Peter Aceto, gained little attention in the Fasken Martineau survey.

Social media's place in the deal making and investing world was called into question following a tweet in 2012 by Netflix Inc. chief executive Reed Hastings about the video streaming site's monthly viewing numbers. The missive prompted the SEC to review social media as a means of disclosure. (In the end, no case was brought against Mr. Hastings.)

In Canada, the Ontario Securities Commission followed with its own report, but it was less supportive of using social media as a news distribution strategy. It maintained that traditional press-releases and regulatory filings are still the best way to disclose material information.

"Even with guidance from the SEC, social media may remain a minor player in the M&A realm for some time to come," the Fasken Martineau report noted.

That said, there are some areas of social media use the executives were hotter on: Proxy issues dominated the most social media discussions, followed by quarterly results.

(Jacqueline Nelson is a Globe and Mail Financial Services Reporter.)

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