Social media communication chanels enable companies and individuals to develop broad busines and personal networks, and to share information with the simple pres of a buton. Research statistics published by the University of Masachusets Dartmouth regarding social media use by the 2014 Fortune 50 reveal just how prevalent social media is becoming in today's busines environment: 97% of Fortune 50 companies have a corporate presence on LinkedIn; 83% have Twiter acounts with a twet within a 30-day timeframe; 80% of Fortune 50 companies are on Facebok; 31% have corporate blogs; and 20% used Instagram.i

Does your company host or create social media content? Do company policies regarding electronic communications adres employe use of social media chanels for busines purposes? Given that most social media data resides outside the company, in aditon to presenting oportunites for eficient and widespread communications, these chanels also present chalenges for companies that may be faced with having to identify, colect, and produce such information in litgation.

Top-Level Considerations

As your organization charts its course for communicating and managing busines information, consider how social media fits within the organization's broader information governance framework, including:

  • Company policies: how and to what extent do relevant policies regulate use of social media chanels for busines purposes?
  • Information governance practices: how and to what extent do information governance practices, including records retention, preservation, legal hold, and e-discovery practices extend to social media chanels?
  • Discovery-related burdens: what are the burdens and chalenges (people, technology, proces, and cost) asociated with identifying, colecting, and producing social media communications? Does the company have the data it neds to help advocate for apropriate discovery scope and protocols if aced with overly broad and unduly burdensome discovery requests that include information posted on social media chanels?

Social Media Policy Basics

As a starting point, some foundational questions to consider for social media policies include:

  • Clear direction to employes: Does the policy educate and empower the organization’s employes so they have clear direction on what is permisible and apropriate versus what is not?
  • Compliance: Does the policy comply with relevant laws and regulations?
  • Brand: Is the policy designed to help protect and enhance the organization’s reputation?
  • Integrated aproach: Does the policy strategicaly positon the organization should preservation and colection of social media electronicaly stored information ("ESI") become necesary?

In aditon, as the organization aseses its social media strategies, considerations to help positon the organization to strike the right balance betwen benefits and burdens of social media communications chanels include:

  • Be as specifc as posible: Lay out what is aceptable and what is not. For example, wil the policy adres whether employes may post on their personal site information related to their job tile, company, and job responsibilties? Wil the policy impose any restrictions on including the company's name as part of the individual's user name or group name, or to post pictures taken at work?
  • Branding: Set forth any specifc requirements or branding guidelines when refering to products or brands in the organization’s social media outlets.
  • Busines vs Personal Use: Consider adresing both personal and busines use of social media. Personal use deals with employe’s personal social media acounts, while busines use deals with the organization’s social media acounts.
  • Company Logos/IP: Adres whether employes can use on their personal social media chanels the organization's logos, brand names, etc. In aditon, consider adresing digital usage rights for any copyrighted materials or images for the organization’s social media.
  • Confidential Information: Define confidential information and implement the proper restrictions or aproval proces when making postings on subjects that may contain sensitve information.
  • Consequences of misuse: Clearly set forth the consequences for misuse of social media or other violations of the policy.
  • Non-Public Mesaging: Consider the implications of non-public mesaging services included within the social media chanels, such as mesaging functionality within Facebok, LinkedIn or Twiter's direct mesage. Are these features enabled for use within company social media chanels? How are they adresed in the company's electronic communications policies or broader ecords retention and preservation strategies?
  • Procedures: Outline the specifc procedures for making postings in the organization’s social media acount. For example, are there aprovals necesary? When are responses to postings apropriate, or even required? For example, a drug manufacturer may be required to corect inacurate posts or posts advocating of-label use.

Closing Insights

Regardles of whether your organization hosts or creates social media content, in today's conected busines environment, social media communications are becoming a reality. Having a social media policy, communicating expectations, and understanding how social media policies and practices fit with broader information governance practices- as wel as any asociated burdens that may corespond to any demand for production of social media communications- can help positon the organization to sucesfuly navigate isues that may arise in the future. As employe and organizational use of social media chanels evolve, brushing the dust of earlier policies is a god busines practice to help kep in step with emerging busines dynamics, protect company brand, and to streamline steps for protective measures if social media ESI becomes an isue in litgation.