The “big three” social networks – LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook – have been growing at incredible rates since their respective tipping points. This growth can be seen across the board, from user counts to volume of content shared. It’s a safe bet that the majority of you reading this post are active on at least one of those networks and you’ve likely already consumed or shared some form of information via that platform today. That might even be how you came across this very post!
This explosive growth has allowed social networks to flourish and provide feature-rich user experiences. However it also tips the balance of power heavily in favor of the networks, allowing them to implement changes when and how they see fit. While new features and updates are usually great for users, they could spell trouble for businesses that are not prepared to adapt their policies & procedures as required.
Social media is basking in the spotlight
Social media revolves around the sharing of information. Whether it’s a Tweet, photo, or status update, users are guaranteed to either be consuming or distributing some piece of knowledge. This constant sharing of information at the control of each individual has raised a number of troubling questions around the topics of monitoring and compliance. Which updates should be archived? Should certain features or functions be restricted? How do we capture usage outside the office? Does activity on personal social media accounts need to be archived?
Those are all valid concerns and both solution providers and industry regulators have done an effective job of addressing them. These issues have become the centerpiece of regulatory discussions, spawning recent rule changes based on industry feedback as well as events that focus solely on the topic, such as SIFMA’s 2012 Social Media Seminar that Global Relay presented at earlier this year.
Today we Tweet, tomorrow we …?
The issue lies in the future and what it may bring. Email as a form of communication has remained largely the same for years. Conversely, if you were to go back five years and ask the average person about a “Tweet” or “Status Update”, those terms would be largely unheard of. While they are commonplace today, one has to wonder what the future of social media holds. How will users interact on Facebook in the next year or two and how will these new interactions fit into the world of compliance?
A new feature in social media could mean an entirely new way to communicate or share information. With the amount of human and financial capital driving these networks, one can only imagine what could be coming down the pipe! With tight integration between mobile platforms and social media (think Twitter integration into iOS 5), the possibilities only continue to expand. A perfect example can be seen in the recent acquisition of Instagram by Facebook for $1 billion. It will remain the same Instagram as we know it for now, but who knows what Facebook might do with it or how they may integrate it with their platform a year from now.
Maintained vigilance will be key to future success
The prominence of social media has demanded the attention of all parties in order to mitigate and prevent corporate damages via its misuse. In order to minimize the gaps in regulation and subsequent grey areas, constant monitoring and evaluation of current and upcoming features is necessary. Solution providers, regulators, and businesses alike all need to have a firm finger on the pulse of social media moving forward. As these platforms evolve and expand further, they will continue to provide new avenues of communication to end users, which in turn will create new challenges and questions surrounding compliance.
As a marketer, I’m hopeful that social media maintains its top-of-mind status in regulatory discussions indefinitely. By tackling the regulatory side of things, regulators and solution providers will continue to empower businesses to connect with their customers and peers in ways that would otherwise be near impossible!