Records management’s role in Social Media Governance

By Carl Weise posted 02-08-2013 14:09


Your information management function is one of the key governance roles for social media.  First, the records management role within this function does the research to understand the unique records retention and compliance requirements of your organization.  Records management provides input as to the value of that content according to legal or regulatory requirements that must be complied with.

Next, records management is often the group that creates the classification structure and metadata model used to classify your organizational information resources, to the extent that these are used for social media-generated content.  This could include things like identifying appropriate hashtags, generating, or normalizing, tags and folksonomies across platforms, or developing queries, or RSS alerts, to be used to identify and save social content locally. 

The records management role would be generally responsible for drafting governance policies and procedures for your organization, including file plans, retention schedules, disposition instructions, and others.

Finally, records management should review the governance technology environment to ensure that it supports those retention requirements.  By environment, we mean people, processes, and technologies.  So, for example, then, SEC 17a-4 requires that records be stored on non-erasable, non-rewritable storage.  A records management professional, at a financial services firm in the U.S., would know that this particular requirement applies to their organization.  The professional may, or may not, know which technologies support this requirement, but could identify it *as* a requirement and have a discussion with IT as to how to satisfy it.

In the context of social media governance, it is critical that you understand the basics of how social media services and architectures actually work.  For example, it’s important to understand the nuances of the terms of service for different providers and how they affect the basic information management program.  You would need to understand where content is stored and how that affects different jurisdictions in which your organization conducts business.

And you would need to understand the differences between different architectures, for example, between commercial services, hosted solutions, cloud applications, and traditional installed application software.  You would also need to understand a bit about open source solutions and alternative intellectual property licensing arrangements, like Creative Commons. 

You also need to use the social media tools in order to understand precisely how they work.  For example, Facebook currently allows users to tag photos of others, with the result that a picture could show up in an individual user’s photos and activity stream without the user having actually uploaded it.  And there are similar issues to be aware of across most tools.

We need to get connected with the users who are actually doing the work in your organization.  These are the customer service agents, the sales people, the clerks, and everyone else who gets stuff done.  They also know how the work is actually done, rather than the theory about how it was designed to be done.  In many organizations, there can be a significant discrepancy between these two.

The users will be using social business tools as part of their work – in fact, in many organizations; they are using social business tools without the formal approval of the organization – or even without its knowledge!  Similarly, in many instances, employees use their own tools rather than those offered by the organization because they make it easier to get the work done.  There is, therefore, an increasing tension in organizations between the legacy tools users are accustomed to and/or required to use vs. the social media tools that may be more flexible, but less secure and less amenable to a formal governance program.  Different organizations will come to balance at different points along that spectrum.

Tell us about your experiences in establishing social media governance in your organization.


I will be speaking at the following events:

February 12th – 13th, 2013  AIIM ERM Practitioner Class in Silver Spring, MD

March 5th – 8th, 2013  AIIM ECM Master Class in Amsterdam, NL

March 12th – 14th, 2013  AIIM ERM Virtual Master Class

March 18th – 21st, 2013 AIIM 2013 Conference in New Orleans, LA

April 2nd – 5th, 2013 AIIM ERM Master Class in Raleigh, NC


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