Is There a Perfect Social Media Policy for your Organization?

Most businesses today are using social networking websites including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to connect with customers, staff, partners, and potential employees—and to nurture innovation and communication within and beyond the walls of the company.

The legal challenges of social media in the workplace

However, the explosion of these new communications channels brings a wealth of compliance and legal challenges. For instance, companies in financial services, life sciences, and healthcare need to ensure that electronic communications of all types– email, instant messages, text messages, and yes, social media – are appropriately retained, produced and supervised, according to the regulations that govern their industries.

Whether answering the call of compliance obligations or the need to preserve and produce your company’s social media content for e-discovery purposes (in case of potential litigation), can you be confident your organization has taken the steps to manage social media’s associated risks? Or are you better off prohibiting the use of social media altogether?

Social media strategy: allow or prohibit?

A recent survey that examined the social media policies and practices of compliance professionals in financial services (one of the most highly-regulated industries) raises some interesting points for any company considering governing social media or prohibiting it. The survey showed that

respondents who indicated they allow and govern social media use within their organization are nearly twice as confident in their ability to meet their compliance obligations compared to those that prohibit its use outright.

What causes this difference in confidence?

So you think your employees are compliant? Prove it.

Those that prohibit social media want to limit exposure to risk. But these firms still must be able to illustrate their prohibition is actually being followed by employees, especially when auditors or industry regulators ask and look for communications records. Proving that is a challenge, especially if non-approved social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are adopted by employees for personal and business communication.

Without clear social media policies and enforcement, compliance teams in regulated industries have a difficult task when attempting to control social media use.

If you can’t beat them, join them

The reality is that employees are going to use social media, in some form, in the workplace. Instead of banning social media, smart companies accept it as a valid form of corporate communication, and put a policy in place to govern appropriate social media use. Those who allow employees to use these channels likely have developed and rolled out usage and governance policies and procedures that help them feel more informed and in control of where and how communications happen. Familiarity with the channels can also play into greater confidence.

What’s the solution for using social media in your organization?

Companies on the cutting edge of compliance also often use a social media archiving solution to capture, supervise, review and produce social media records. This type of solution makes it as painless as possible to find and show all of your company social media conversations when needed.

Find more information about social media compliance trends in the Smarsh 2013 Electronic Communications Compliance Survey Report.


By Ken Anderson, Vice President of Marketing, Smarsh