There are cynics who claim that all social media tools are time wasters that ultimately distract employees from the job at hand. While that may be true at times, social media ultimately presents a huge opportunity for businesses – an opportunity too big to overlook. How big? In the McKinsey Global Institute’s (MGI) recent report, “The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies” it is estimated that “social media technologies could potentially contribute $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value.” And that estimate is only for four industries: consumer packaged goods, retail financial services, advanced manufacturing, and professional services.
MGI theorizes that most social media value comes from improved collaboration and communication – can anyone say, “the new email?” But, there is also much marketing and branding value at play, especially in the consumer goods industry. With that kind of value at stake, companies should embrace, not shy away from, social media. Like email before it, social media does present information governance and eDiscovery challenges. Therefore, embracing social media does require some prep work to avoid potentially costly problems down the road. Companies that embrace social media in a responsible manner will maximize the business value social media presents while mitigating the risks. This means that information governance professionals need to step to the forefront when creating social media strategies and execution plans for companies.
The best plan for social media governance involves sound usage policies. In addition, there is an interesting article that points out the importance of making decisions on content and account ownership early on so as to avoid headaches earlier. For example, companies need to determine if it is a social media account a company account or a personal account. If the account is a company one, such as a LinkedIn company profile page, the company should keep track of usernames and passwords and make it clear that the company owns the account. That way, if the employee creating the account leaves, the company will maintain control of the account. There is also a need for creating disclaimers to protect the company from content that may live on, say, a company Facebook page, but is posted by someone from outside the company.
In addition to those decisions, when creating a social media usage policy, be sure to at least include:
Clear specifications on acceptable use of social media for business purposes
- Disclosing affiliations when posting
- Non-inflammatory comments about competitors
- Use of dedicated company specific profiles
- Logging of profile user names and passwords
Guidance on acceptable use of company social media profiles for personal reasons
- Acceptable or not to post social media status updates
- Direct promotion of company products or marketing initiatives
- Political, religious or other potentially controversial topics
- Guidance on acceptable use of humor
Clear rules on whether, and how, employees can use company intellectual property in their personal usage of social media
- Company logos
- Company intellectual property such as data or trade secrets
- Prohibition of disclosure of confidential information
Clear definition and training to define confidential information, trade secrets and regulated market impact information such as pricing, commodities and product releases
- Ramifications for policy violations
- Legal issues for the company
It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By paying attention to social media policies now, companies can embrace it and reap the value it can provide while reducing the risk of eDiscovery problems down the road.