Applying Records Management to User-Generated “Social” Content

By James Watson posted 05-03-2011 17:08


We’ve all heard that content is exploding.  One big contributor is user-generated content associated with various “social” interactions – wikis, blogs, Tweets, notifications, votes, profiles, etc.  How can we apply records management principles to these types of content?  Do we need to change our tactics in terms of implementation?

The answer to the first question is that records management principles most definitely should be applied to social content.  Strong governance, a deliberate process, communication and training, etc. (collectively principles) all play a role in developing a defensible and cost-effective approach to the retention and disposition of social content. 

But the tactics will need to change in terms of implementation. The challenge is that a significant portion of social content has no value or inherent risk to the organization.  Thus there’s no reason to retain that content, nor any justification to aggressively ensure its disposal.  But – just maybe, but –within the social media activity stream there is the possibility that something could be of value: e.g. “I responded to the blog post of a subordinate, and told them it was inappropriate.”  Because there is the potential for relevant information to be embedded in the social media banter, firms need to monitor the medium and take action (i.e. be prepared to preserve if necessary). 

But how do you perform these tasks economically? Keep everything online for 90 days, archive it for another 180 days, and then delete?

What we recommend is an approach that is surprisingly similar to what organizations do with documents, images and email:

  • Focus on key users or user groups:  These would be licensed individuals, officers, etc.  Understand the nature of their activities in online forums to determine the risk / value of being more aggressive with records management of the content they generate in these forums.
  • Monitor and sample: Because the tools as well as users’ comfort levels with communicating in these forums are changing very quickly, invest the time and energy to monitor the nature of communications.  Office betting pool?  No problem.  Discussion group working on the agenda for an off-site management meeting? No problem. The CEO’s “news-you-can-use” Q & A blog?
  • Define a process: Many organizations are using media monitoring tools to track social media “mentions”.  What an organization does with that information and the process to evaluate its risk / value is what needs definition. 

Remember, while for most organizations, the generation of social content remains in its infancy, the volume of that content is likely to follow the steep upward trajectory we’ve witnessed in the consumer space. Which is why it’s critical to being thinking through the implications from a records management perspective – and to begin doing that now. 

#Records-Management #RiskManagement #socialcomputing #ElectronicRecordsManagement