Social networks present companies with similar difficulties as the introduction of e-mail into the business world once did. Social media as communication channels are still relatively new, generate unmanageable amounts of unstructured data and are therefore difficult to control. The immediacy and informality in social networks also increase the risk of data breaches or the inadvertent publication of confidential information. Many companies therefore see social networks primarily as a danger.
The new possibilities that social media offer for customer loyalty and increasing market awareness are thus ignored. Because this will in all likelihood inhibit future success, Iron Mountain, a global provider of information management services, has put together the following measures for companies to use social networks safely.
1. Concentration on the essentials
The aim of information management is to limit the costs and risks associated with the administration of databases and at the same time to improve access to relevant information and its benefits for the company. Regardless of the format, companies must therefore know what data they have, where it is and how it is used. It is the same with the management of information in social networks, but more complicated due to the amount and unstructured nature of the data. When companies capture content from social networks, they need to protect it as well and put in place guidelines on how long the information should be kept and who can access it.
2. Observe laws
Social networks like Facebook or Twitter are technology-based communication media that are developing rapidly. The legislation usually lags behind the latest developments. However, every tweet, every posting or every blog entry is potentially an official business transaction for which companies are liable and which they must therefore archive. Companies should therefore always be aware of the current legal situation for handling information in all countries in which they do business.
3. Establish guidelines for dealing with social media in the company
Blocking employees from access to social networks at the workplace is not very effective – employees then simply use their own mobile devices. Therefore, companies should set up clear usage guidelines for dealing with social media in the workplace and train their employees accordingly. Such guidelines must contain clear instructions for action, but also promote a culture of accountability.
4. Differentiate between business and personal use
To protect the brand’s reputation, channels need to be properly managed. Companies should therefore strictly differentiate between business and private use of social media. It is therefore advisable for companies to set up official company accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or Xing. This simplifies the distinction between personal and professional use in the company and facilitates access to relevant data if necessary. It also reduces the risk of (accidental) access to personal messages from employees, which could lead to data protection problems.
5. Stay flexible
The development of social networks is rapid. Companies must therefore ensure that their guidelines for dealing with social media in the company can be easily adapted to changes. To do this, they should keep themselves constantly up to date by working with external experts or forming working groups in order to use the expertise of their employees. The working groups should also draw on the expertise from the area of information management as well as from the legal and human resources departments. It is also important to include all departments in which social networks can be used for business, especially marketing, PR and sales.