Are you on top of social media data?

In a recent survey 20 percent of companies had to use social media data in litigation or an investigation — a number bound to rise. The time to get ready is NOW! Here's quick intro to get you started.

Do you have a strategy for collecting and archiving social media data? You should. It's a hot new legal area for disputes and investigations.

In the latest Norton Rose Fulbright litigation trends survey, 20 percent of the companies had to preserve or collect data from social media accounts in a dispute or investigation. That's up from around zero percent, five years ago. Yet way lower than the 50 percent predicted by Gartner three years ago. Be thankful!

Capturing the wily media

The National Archives and Records Administration has a good overview in a recent paper titled Best Practices for the Capture of Social Media. You can skip the section on current federal agency use, but the rest is thoughtful and free of paid analyst and vendor hype.

As the paper makes plain, the state of the art in social media capture isn't pretty. As of two years ago, federal agencies were using a variety of sub-optimal tools, probably close to what many companies use today:

  • Backup tools
  • Ask vendor directly for content
  • Copy and paste into a word document
  • Export from social media platform in CSV format
  • Print and file
  • PDF/A (Archive)
  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to create a customized tool to download into a database

The most useful part of the NARA paper is the listing of vendors and what media they capture. Sadly, it appears that none of them capture everything of interest. But some come close:

  • Aleph Archives captures websites in native format along with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
  • Arkovi captures FB, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, RSS, YouTube.
  • Nextpoint is primarily aimed at lawyers, and covers Websites, blogs, Twitter and Facebook.
  • LexisNexis' Reed Tech offers Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Web sites and RSS feed archiving.

Check out the NARA paper for many more.

As important as what media gets captured though, are the tools to search and analyze the data. That's likely to be the key differentiator for packages, rather than what gets captured. Data is no good if you can't use it.

The Storage Bits take

It is still early days in the social media capture and archive space. No one seems to have a total solution that will work for lawyers as well as marketing — something that may never happen. 

But for IT people who talk "business partner" it's now time to walk the walk. Building bridges with marketing and legal — who often report to the CFO — is a good idea: social media won't capture itself.

Company lawyers will probably argue that this is an IT responsibility, and they're right. But IT should work with the lawyers to figure out what they need because, after all, what does IT know about legal requirements?

And finally, you'll need to be aware of emerging social media. The new security oriented services will make this job much tougher, but the potentially enormous penalties for failure to produce will remain. It's time to dig into the problem, before the problem digs into you.

Comments welcome, as always. What is your strategy for capturing social media?