This post collects together a few articles which appeared at about the same time as Tim Bratton’s talk Should Corporate Counsel Use Social Media? at the Legal Week Corporate Counsel Forum Europe last week. These articles cover the marketing, the practical and the risk-related aspects of using social media, and they expand on some of the points made in the talk, going beyond the use by corporate counsel and into other areas to which they should be alert.
A more formal analysis of the benefits of using social media appears in an article called Not Your Marketer’s Social Media:Ten Ways Lawyers Can Benefit from Non-Marketing Uses of Social Media by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. The article identifies a number of reasons apart from marketing why one should use these forms of communication, concluding that they all contribute to marketing whatever their primary driver. The word “social” implies involvement and usually (but not necessarily) interaction. Delegation away from those with a genuine interest in the company’s products and its market (which may, of course, include marketing departments) loses that driver.
The downsides include potential damage to reputation – see this article about a tweeting initiative by the Guardian on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 which was pulled very quickly in a hail of protest. This example is particularly interesting because, as the author notes, it is not necessarily easy at first to see what is wrong with what the Guardian was doing. There was no ill-intent here, nor (one assumes) a solo frolic by an unauthorised junior, just an idea which fell flat. There is a danger, in our over-cautious times, that misjudgements like this are seized on by opponents of new media to damn the whole idea, or to hedge future uses around with so many constraints that they lose the immediacy which gives them value.
Downsides come in other forms, including the discovery risks highlighted in an article called Social Media: the Next eDiscovery Elephant in the Corner by Johannes Scholtes of ZyLAB. The discovery / disclosure problems come in all shapes and sizes, not least the pure volume revealed by the statistics which Johannes Scholtes sets out. Employment issues, evidence unwittingly revealed, modifications to our expectations of privacy – these are all traditional discovery matters given alarming new life by the extent of social media use.
In Social Media: the Risks of a Ban Howard Sklar of Recommind weighs the benefits against the risks, concluding that staff are going to use social media anyway and that companies must devise strategies, including education, to combat the risks.
An article by Jim Shook of EMC SourceOne called Blurring the Boundary Between Work and Personal Lives, considers the limits around a company’s claimed right to control its employees’ use of social media when their pocket and tablet devices can by-pass office constraints.
The proper reactions are in part pragmatic, to do with riding waves which you cannot resist, and partly down to a simple conflict between two virtuous ends, as IT and security departments find their careful defences under siege from those responsible for marketing and for the productivity which comes from enabling staff to work from anywhere. Both the latter have their equal and opposite forces, with marketing undermined by negative publicity spread by social media and productivity hit by FaceBook updates and Angry Birds.
Social Media brings risks even without the discovery / disclosure implications highlighted in the articles referred to above. Add in the discovery risks – the pure have-I-complied-with-the-rules? risks and the (perhaps more important) risk of missing vital evidence – and it is clear that the subject cannot be ignored.