Article by Alex Morgan from Jatheon Technologies.

Alex is a passionate tech blogger, internet nerd, and data enthusiast. He is interested in topics that cover data regulation, compliance, eDiscovery, information governance and business communication.

Social media is quickly becoming an accepted method for communicating with customers, and most companies have already created some sort of social media presence. The benefits of using social media are many, but companies need to remain aware of potential pitfalls.

One of the primary concerns for organizations in compliance with rules and regulations. The regulatory landscape is changing rapidly, and organizations that use social media to communicate with customers need to stay informed.

The consequences of noncompliance

The consequences of noncompliance can include hefty fines, loss of reputation, and possible legal action. Let’s go into more detail about each of these areas of risk.

Regulatory fines

Noncompliance with regulations can have serious financial ramifications. The penalties associated with violating regulations can be crippling. Organizations such as the Federal Trade Commission or the FCC can levy fines, up to millions of dollars, against companies that fail to comply with regulations.

These penalties can be incurred for a wide variety of reasons, including failure to disclose paid endorsements, failure to secure sensitive data, or failing to honor opt-out requests in a timely manner. Companies should work closely with their legal counsel to ensure full compliance with the regulations that apply to them.

Loss of reputation

A loss of reputation can be one of the most costly effects of noncompliance. Companies face public scrutiny when decisions are poorly made, and the loss of reputation can be devastating. When companies violate regulations, it damages their credibility and can impact how the public views them.

Violations of regulations can also lead to legal action. If a company is found to be in violation of regulations, it can be held liable by affected customers or clients. These lawsuits can be very expensive and can damage a company’s reputation.

Organizations need to be prepared to deal with negative publicity and legal claims and should ensure adequate insurance coverage is in place.

How to stay compliant

Establish protocols and procedures

Organizations should establish a comprehensive set of policies and procedures that outline how social media will be used within the organization. These procedures should be carefully reviewed, and should clearly define roles, responsibilities, and acceptable use policies.

Many organizations think that a social media policy isn’t necessary. However, social media is drastically different than other communications media. It’s much more difficult to regulate, as content can be instantaneous and far-reaching. A policy is a good way to give employees the guidance they need.

Social media policies typically address topics such as defining the company’s goals, outlining expectations, and defining how employees should respond to customer interactions.

It’s important for organizations to include social media guidelines in their employee handbooks, and to review them annually.

Educate your employees

Employees need to understand that social media policies go beyond existing regulations and laws.

Organizations should take the time to educate employees about the risks social media can present, and should emphasize that compliance is everyone’s responsibility.

Employees should be reminded about their responsibility to protect company information and should understand that customer interactions are public.

They should be educated about privacy laws, including protected information and personally identifiable information.

Archive your social media content

Organizations should establish a plan to archive all of their social media content.

An archive process can help companies remain compliant, and it can help companies avoid inadvertently deleting content that needs to be preserved.

Companies should archive all content, including customer service interactions and all information published on their official pages.

Companies should implement the right social media archiving solution, establish policies on how content will be archived, and should ensure that the archive process meets all regulatory requirements and guidelines.

Monitor social media interactions

Organizations should establish a process to monitor all of their social media interactions.

Monitoring social media can be time-consuming and costly, but monitoring interactions can help an organization identify potential compliance issues.

Monitoring can help organizations spot violations of company policies and can help companies spot potential legal issues.

Organizations should look for keywords and sentiments that indicate potential compliance issues.

Keep up with regulatory changes

Regulatory changes can be significant, and they happen quickly.

Companies should make sure that their social media policies address regulatory changes, and should make sure that their policies are updated if regulatory changes occur.

Organizations should maintain a relationship with their legal counsel and should make sure that they are informed of changes in regulations.

If new regulations are enacted, companies should make sure that they are in full compliance before they are enforced.

Conclusion

Social media has quickly become an important part of most organizations’ communications strategies.

However, the increasing use of social media also presents new risks. Organizations need to be aware of these risks and take steps to protect themselves against noncompliance.

Organizations need to include social media in their compliance programs. They should establish protocols and procedures, educate their employees, and implement a comprehensive archiving solution.