A Guide to Social Media Compliance

Jul 09, 2014


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BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Article ImageMost of us are familiar with using social media to post status updates about our vacation, photos of our family, funny videos we find on YouTube, or tweeting about our favorite sports team. However, when it comes to using social media for business purposes, it is important to understand that the rules are different. Anything you post can be considered a form of consumer advertising; as such, you need to be careful not to post misleading or false information. This is especially true if you work in a regulated industry such as financial services, banking, healthcare, law, or pharmaceutical.

HAVE A POLICY IN PLACE

Thankfully, there are many ways to protect yourself from getting into trouble by what you and your employees are posting on social media. One of the most traditional ways to stay out of trouble is to have a good social media policy that clearly explains what is allowed and what is not allowed when posting information about your company and its products or services. There are many examples of good social media policies that you can find online. While a social media policy may minimize your liability as a company owner or an employee, it is simply not enough to ensure you or your employees will not post something that can get you into trouble.

COMPLIANCE TOOLS

This is where social media compliance tools come in. Social media compliance tools allow a business to manage its employees use of social media by allowing them to post preapproved content to their individual social network accounts or by providing a level of moderation or review before and after employees post on social networks. Ideally, you want your sales representatives or team members to actively participate in social media. After all, the reach of many is much greater that the reach of one. However, you want to make sure that what your employees are posting meets with your governance guidelines and company policies.

Social media compliance tools allow you to set up workflows and policies that can control access to networks, content, and features so that your business is fully compliant. As previously mentioned, this is especially important if you own a business or work for a company in a government-regulated industry. These tools can help your company stay compliant with rules and regulations from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Healthy Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and many more. Even if your company is not in a regulated industry, you will still find that social media compliance software can ensure that trade secrets and other proprietary company or customer information is not posted on social networks by accident.

Social media compliance tools also help you with document retention and archival issues. This is especially important for regulated industry companies that are required to maintain documents for a determinate number of years. The definition of "documents" has been expanded with the explosion of communication via social technologies. Previously, document retention policies only applied to actual documents and emails; today, any type of social discussions (including blog posts, wikis, and messages on activity streams) are considered documents and are subject to document retention requirements.

The problem with archiving these types of social documents is that, in many instances, the context has changed. In other words, there may be a blog post and a series of comments following that post. Over the course of time, the blog post may change and even the comments may change or get deleted. Therefore, it is not sufficient to archive the blog and comments as they are today; rather, it is important to archive the documents in the context that occurred a few months ago. Fortunately, the social media compliance providers mentioned in the sidebar offer that type of functionality.

As with most software, social compliance software provides solutions that range from point solutions (which address one specific need or requirement) to fully enabled platforms (which provide maximum compliance and security). As more companies and employees continue to integrate social media into their daily work and continue to use social media as important communications tools, the importance and sophistication of social compliance software will continue to grow.

No matter what your needs, social media compliance tools are a must-have solution if you work for a company in regulated industries-and they are a good idea even for those that are not regulated. Remember the old saying, "It's better to be safe than sorry."

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)


Social Media Compliance Providers

Actiance

Smarsh

Socialware

PostBeyond

Gremln