Social media e-discovery: Crucial, even in its infancy


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An increasing number of tools can help, but there are many issues to work through first.

Until late last year, First Command Financial Services' presence on the social Web was pretty much nil: No corporate Facebook pages and no business-related postings by its 400 registered investment advisors (RIAs), although they could have personal accounts.

Last December, that changed. The company launched corporate pages on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and started a blog called "Your Money Matters" on By year-end, 50 RIAs will start interacting with clients via Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, with 100 more scheduled for next year, according to Katherine Kirkpatrick, First Command's director of social media.

But before all this could happen, a team of compliance, IT, marketing and legal people spent months developing policies and an infrastructure for managing social media usage, surveillance, retention and e-discovery in compliance with stringent federal regulations and internal rules, Kirkpatrick says.

Consider, too, that traditional email is generated on a centralized system managed by the IT department. In contrast, social media and webmail are highly decentralized, with posts generated and owned by a diverse group of vendors and business users. This makes social content much more difficult to collect and manage.

Limiting business postings to a few social media sites can make surveillance and compliance easier, but can also cause conflict, since customer-facing employees want to "go where the customers are," Kirkpatrick notes. During the initial planning phase, her team quickly dismissed the idea of constraining advisor-client interactions to just a corporate blog.

Sanko says that firms "can take any number of reasonable steps" to ensure proper usage in accordance with "ethical restraints," while allowing attorneys to reap the benefits social media provides. These include policies outlining proper use, "incorporation of proper disclaimers" and monitoring social media activity "through technological means."

A carrot among the sticks

Regulation and litigation are the sticks driving companies to adopt social media content management strategies. But there's a tempting carrot, too: A well-managed social media strategy promises major gains in outward-facing employees' productivity and responsiveness to customers.

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