Many business students begin their research by locating the company’s website and social media channels using a quick Google search. There are a few areas, in particular, where using Google can be a viable strategy:
- accessing corporate websites
- finding government information (international, national, provincial, and local)
- finding statistics (e.g., Statistics Canada, US Census)
- locating technical information such as help manuals and software documentation
The most effective means to locate a corporate website is to enter the company name into Google. Consider putting the company name in quotation marks if the company is more than one word. If the company is public, adding corporate to your Google search can also be helpful. For the most part, the company’s corporate website should appear at or near the top of your Google search results.
While corporate websites seem to be good sources of information, can you trust their company-supplied information? Sometimes, but it’s important to be aware that corporations will often depict themselves in the best possible light. As such, it is worthwhile to supplement the information available on a corporate website with the independent company databases provided by UNB Libraries.
A public company’s corporate website usually contains a variety of additional information within its web pages. For example, the company’s mission, basic structure, current financial information, promotional and marketing tools, product information, and more.
It is important to ensure that you are accessing the company’s corporate website. Corporate information is often buried in a variety of interior locations on websites. You should look for links on the site such as:
- About Us
- Company Info
- Media & News
- Press Releases
- Investors or Investor Relations
- Site Map (can help in locating specific information)
The Investors or Investor Relations section of the website is typically where the company’s current financial information can be located. To give you an example, take a look at Apple Inc’s Investor Relations webpage by clicking the snapshot below.
You will also notice that Apple’s Investor Relations link displays a wealth of information including links to stock price, SEC filings, leadership and governance, environment, social and governance topics (ESG), and FAQs.
Keep in mind that the look and feel of each company’s investor’s web page will be different. For example, take a look at Canadian Tire’s Investors webpage by clicking the snapshot below.
You will notice that Canadian Tire offers a variety of information for Investors including financial reporting, financial news, events and presentations, along with shareholders, debtholders, corporate governance, and investor resources. Don’t be afraid to explore the different links within the Investor web pages.
Keep in mind that corporate websites usually highlight the best points of the company rather than dwelling on any negatives.
Corporate Annual Reports
When researching a publicly-traded company using Google, you will also discover that it is usually fairly easy to locate the company’s current annual report as it should be available somewhere within the corporate website.
Annual reports and reports to shareholders are often presented in a magazine-like format which provides investors with a broad overview of the company’s performance and operations during the previous year.
Reports often open with an accompanying letter to company shareholders from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The letter typically contains information about not only about major milestones during the previous year but also offers a vision of where the company plans to go. The report may contain additional insights which could be useful so be sure to skim through the rest of it.
Below is an example of Canadian Tire Corporation’s 2020 Report to Shareholders. If you wish to take a look, here is a link to Canadian Tire’s 150-page report:
REMINDER: As noted in an earlier section in this module (SEDAR & EDGAR: Open Access Financial Reports), current publicly-traded companies in Canada and the U.S. are required to file specific corporate financial reports with the appropriate government regulatory body.
In Canada, the regulatory body is the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA). In the U.S., the regulatory body is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In turn, the CSA and the SEC ensure that corporate filings are freely available to the general public and potential investors to make informed investment decisions.
If you’re not able to locate corporate reports using the company’s corporate website, be sure to check our library-subscribed company databases and CSA’s SEDAR+ database (Canadian companies) or the SEC’s EDGAR database (U.S. companies).
Private companies are not required to file an annual report. If a private company offers such a report, it is likely to take the form of a promotional piece.
It’s important to carefully consider the information provided prior to including it in academic work because there are no regulatory bodies overseeing annual reports created by private companies. This means they can write whatever they choose.
Social Media Profile
Does the company you’re researching have a social media profile? If so, check what the company is posting on various social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube.
Do company social media channels mirror each other or is each channel unique? How often does the company post? Do they run polls and contests?
Large companies often use a variety of internal methods to track and measure what people and customers are saying about them, a new product, or other topics across the social media landscape. Companies might also use specialized social media monitoring tools designed to aggregate user-generated content from across the web into a single stream of information.
To understand more about how social media channels are used by companies, try accessing another of our UNB-subscribed databases – eMarketer Pro.
eMarketer Pro is the go-to authority on digital marketing, mobile, social media, and eCommerce, offering daily insights that can be helpful when navigating the changing, competitive, and complex digital environment.
eMarketer weighs and analyzes information from different sources which can be helpful to companies who are evaluating emerging trends, developing new ways to reach customers, validating decisions, and trying to stay ahead of the competition. Below is a sample chart from eMarketer Pro.
Keep in mind that corporate websites and social media channels are marketing tools.
Ask yourself, the following questions:
Is their information accurate?
Can their facts be verified by an independent source?
To gain a more balanced view of company performance, try verifying their facts by using company profiles from library-subscribed databases.
Access Canadian Tire’s Investors webpage and take a look at the types of information that Canadian Tire offers potential investors. Use what you find to answer the following questions: