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Corporate Guidelines for Social Media Archiving

Debra Logan‘s research paper for Gartner – Social Media Governance: An Ounce of Prevention (Gartner, December 2010, $95) – raises some interesting questions for organizations looking to leverage the marketing potential of social media without sacrificing the ability to meet statutory or company guidelines for record keeping.

The paper comes at an interesting time as web based applications make inroads into all aspects of the corporation, not just marketing. The vogue for everything “cloud based” means this isn’t just the usual tug-of-war between the marketing team and the legal department. Indeed, the paper itself is based on the strategic planning assumption that by year-end 2013, 50% of all companies will have been asked to produce material from social media in response to an e-discovery request.

Gartner offer generally sound advice to those looking for some direction on what is an increasingly thorny issue, but one of the difficulties of this discipline is that the state-of-the-art is moving on rapidly. So the assertion in the “bottom line”, that a default approach of keeping everything creates retrieval issues, is just no longer valid.

Furthermore, the implication that better governance policy would reduce what has to be kept and therefore make retrieval easier could in itself create problems.

Consider the following:

  • Customers of Hanzo web archiving products have reported that storage and retrieval of web content creates minimal overhead.
  • Pre-judging what constitutes critical information is difficult – Gartner themselves acknowledge this as work in progress.
  • If archiving and retrieval creates minimal overhead, why not “keep everything”?
  • Courts may not currently be giving clear guidance, but as the use of social media (inevitably) grows, they will likely become more demanding on e-discovery of social media. Put another way; are they likely to become less demanding?

Web archiving technology has evolved. The new “bottom line” is that with clear archive guidelines and a good web archiving product, organizations can rapidly archive and retrieve social media and complex web objects with minimal overhead. It creates a rock solid base for compliance and e-discovery and provides some interesting opportunities for marketing analytics. At last, it’s something both legal and marketing departments can agree on as a good idea.

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