Social Media Archiving Policy Q&A

EPolicy Institute Executive Director Nancy Flynn discusses what companies should and shouldn't be doing.

March 20, 2012

EPolicy Institute Executive Director Nancy Flynn's new book, The Social Media Handbook, debuted this month, and a companion training tool kit is expected this year. Workforce Management contributing editor Michelle V. Rafter talked to Flynn recently about what companies' social media policies are lacking, and what kind of social media communications they should archive and how.

Workforce Management: What haven't companies figured out about social media risks?

Flynn: A lot are still struggling to manage email risks. Consequently it's not surprising that social media is posing a challenge. Organizations don't have a corporate social media policy because they don't have a Facebook page or they aren't using Twitter. But their employees are bringing in social media through the back door. They're sitting in the office on their own accounts on their own devices or the company's equipment or going home and blogging or posting on Facebook or YouTube about company business. Even if you don't have a corporate social media presence, you must put social media rules and policies in place to manage what employees are doing.

WFM: What social media content should you save?

Flynn: In 2006, the federal courts announced rules that all electronically stored information (ESI) is discoverable. All states have e-discovery guidelines too. If you get in a workplace lawsuit, you can take it to the bank that your ESI will be subpoenaed and become part of the discovery process. That includes email, instant messages, text messages and social media content such as blog posts, Facebook content, LinkedIn profiles and YouTube videos.

WFM: Is it ever OK to delete things?

Flynn: Under federal law, you can't delete ESI related to a lawsuit that's filed, pending or that you think one day will be filed against your company. You're legally allowed to delete ESI in the ordinary course of business, but you have to be consistent. You have to establish a deletion schedule and stick to it so you could walk into a courtroom and say we couldn't produce these records because we purge our ESI every 90 days and can prove it. If you can, the court will accept it. But if you can't produce ESI related to a case because you just deleted it and don't have a policy or schedule or don't normally delete it, you'll be in trouble.

WFM: Do email archiving systems work for saving social media communications?

Flynn: It depends. If you have current best-in-class archiving technology then perhaps you can archive text and instant messages along with email. But if the technology is older, it may not be designed to capture IM and text messages. The same goes for social media. When instant messaging first arrived, companies allowed employees to use public software and didn't worry about archiving IM chat even though they were legally required to do so. Others installed corporate IM so they could archive and purge it. Others used gateway technology to use public IM clients but could manage, archive and purge it. It was all across the board. I'd imagine the way organizations are handling social media retention and archiving is all across the board too.

Workforce Management Contributing Editor Michelle V. Rafter is based in Portland, Ore. To comment email