34 per cent of UK companies describe their management of social media as ‘chaotic’
London March 2, 2012 – Research findings published today by information management firm Iron Mountain incorporated (NYSE: IRM) show that social media represents a growing information headache for UK businesses. While three quarters (76 per cent) of UK respondents say they regard social media communications as formal business records, only around half (54 per cent) are aware that they carry legal liability for the content. A third of UK respondents (34 per cent) describe their management of social media as ‘chaotic’ and ‘unmanaged’ and as many as three quarters (74 per cent) ban the use of social media at work completely.
Commenting on the survey results, Christian Toon, head of information security at Iron Mountain Europe said: “Social media is troubling organizations much as email did a decade or so ago. It’s new, it generates huge volumes of unstructured data, and that makes it hard to control. The immediacy and informality of social media increase the potential risks of data breaches and information exposure, so it is not surprising that many companies feel threatened. However, social media also offers a wealth of possibilities in terms of customer engagement and market awareness. No business today can really afford to ignore it. Social media is the tool that a new generation of workers will expect to work with.”
“Don’t let fear hold you back,” suggests Toon. “Build your approach based on best practice in records management. There are some essential steps you can take to get to grips with social media in a way that would protect your business, your employees and your customers.”
The steps recommended by Iron Mountain’s Christian Toon include:
1. Believe in the basics: it’s all about the content, not the channel
Information management is about mitigating the costs and risks associated with information assets, while improving access to relevant information and increasing its usefulness to the business. In order to achieve this, companies must understand what information they have, where it is and how the business is using it, irrespective of format. Effectively managing social media is no different; it’s just more complicated because of the volume and unstructured nature of the data.
If you’re capturing the content, you must protect it and put policy around it to govern how long it’s kept and who gets access to it. If in doubt, speak to a trusted third party provider who can help outline an effective strategy to manage all types of records.
2. Understand the law
Social media is a technology-enabled communications medium; and where technology is involved, the law invariably lags behind practice. Theoretically, every tweet or post or blog constitutes an official ‘record’ that needs to be retained and for which a business is liable. In reality, the law in this area is still evolving and its application is often unclear and inconsistent. Make sure you understand the latest legal obligations in all the countries where you do business.
3. Develop a corporate information management policy for social media that includes clear employee guidelines and encourages a culture of responsibility
Many companies are unsure how to mitigate the risks around social media. It may seem tempting to take the short-term solution and block employees from accessing social media channels. But the likely reality is that staff will access social media using their own devices, over which you will have no control. A more effective and practical solution is to establish acceptable use policies for social media and train all staff on these policies.
4. Take control where you can
Social media is good for business – an engagement tool for employees and customers alike – but it needs to be managed properly to protect brand reputation. One of the first steps is to differentiate between social media for business and personal use. Consider establishing official ‘corporate’ accounts on social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This will make it easier for the business to draw lines between personal and professional usage and to gain access to relevant records if required. It also reduces the risk of accessing employees’ personal communications or content, which would raise new data protection issues.
5. Stay flexible
Social media is evolving rapidly, and companies need to ensure their policies are agile enough to accommodate the pace of change and are communicated clearly to all employees. Keep up-to-date by engaging with external experts or by forming working groups that uses the expertise within your organization. Such groups should draw on expertise from records management, legal and HR, and involve content generating units such marketing, PR and sales, as well as business units, such as customer communications, that may leverage social media to do their work.
 Iron Mountain – Document Management Study, Coleman Parkes, October 2011