A regulatory lesson for Polar Bears

Manchester United, at the forefront of community building through social media, came close this week to having their fingers burned when social media speculation threatened to upset regulatory requirements.  In the wake of almost 24 hours of feverish speculation across social media channels and traditional news outlets, MUFC posted two tweets at 0830 BST on 22nd April:

“BREAKING: Manchester United announces that David Moyes has left the club….  The club would like to place on record its thanks for the hard work, honesty and integrity he brought to the role.”

However, the way the story originally broke on Monday 21st was enough to make observers confident that the manager would be sacked – and many have even suggested that Moyse had already left the club when the first news hit Twitter.  So why did the club keep everyone in suspense?  It’s a simple question of money.   MUFC is listed on the NASDAQ, and the departure of David Moyes raised the share price by 6%.  The club had to go through the motions of declaring price-sensitive information to the NASDAQ before actually telling the world.

Educating Polar Bears

This highlights one of the real dangers of social media – there are some areas where the speed and spread of tweets and posts risk breaking the rules.   Not everything can be handled at the lightening pace and total openness we have come to expect.  The older heads, the Penguins, know this – corporate experience gives us an insight into the times when you need to be careful and circumspect – but the people who have grown up with social media don’t necessarily recognise the risks.  The same phenomenon came into play when jurors were dismissed and prosecuted for contempt of court for using the tools at their fingertips to research or even discuss cases.

These are classic examples of the clash of cultures and risks faced by the ‘Polar Bears’ at the socially engaged end of the SE/CE curve.  The real reason for the Moyse announcement’s delay is a great lesson in why it’s sometimes important to show restraint online.