Oh, boy. What to do with social media? It’s the perennial popular kid of the connected era: always on the go, always surrounded by throngs of admirers, and always leading the fads that adults just don’t get until they’ve long since passed.
Will social media’s trend-setting temperament ever be able to make amends with the steadfast disposition of enterprise compliance? Increasingly, the answer may be “yes.” The convergence of necessity and technological innovation has spawned a number of tools at our disposal that are paving the way for more tightly-integrated management of social content into enterprise strategy. Dare we even say that social media is starting to…. grow up? Perhaps. But how successfully it matures will also depend on how firmly the business itself provides guidance and direction.
Needless to say, the progression of social media hasn’t been without growing pains. The enterprise, much like the beleaguered parent of a teen, has always been struggling to set meaningful boundaries for its brand-official social media accounts. And it’s typically been an uphill battle. Often it seems as if the values of the enterprise and the values of the social universe are in diametric opposition. The enterprise is generally risk-averse and conservative, carefully grooming itself for presentation in public; it thinks before it speaks. In contrast, social media is progressive, edgy, and quick-tempered; an extraverted loudmouth, it holds nothing back and seems to care little for the long-term consequences.
The enterprise sets a reasonable curfew: social media sneaks out the bedroom window at night. The enterprise firmly tells social media, “You are NOT leaving the house like that.” It temporarily changes, stealthily packing its original outfit into a book bag for later retrieval. Many a night the corporation has lost sleep over what trouble their social media might get into running with the wrong crowd. It’s 3:00 AM… do you know what your social media is doing? Until quite recently, you’d be hard pressed to find a large organization where the executive management could give a confident answer.
Perhaps I’m at risk of beating a dead metaphorse here.
When social media wants to stay hip and have a good time, it has historically often come at the expense of corporate needs. But it’s not just your typical pitfalls such as immature comments or regulatory slipups that get fresh-faced social media teams in trouble. The enterprise has moved on to more existential concerns: the finer details. What would the brand actually “say” in this situation? How would it act as a person?
One of the biggest concerns of large businesses in the social era has been the need to maintain a consistent brand “personality” within the very profile-centric sphere of social sites. Social media is inherently a celebration of the individual. But the corporation yearns to be an individual, too, in the public eye. After all, much of the point of traditional branding is to create a single entity that is approachable, evocative of certain emotions… a familiar face of sorts. But with the average Fortune 500 firm having multiple social teams or PR firms working across multiple websites and physical locations, social media consistency has often proven elusive. For the ones that pulled it off, there were often endless layers of approval and canned answers that could slow brand-public interaction to a crawl --anathema to the quick banter and ephemeral tides of the social sea. For the businesses in the most regulated industries such as finance and healthcare, there was once a dark time where NO social media seemed like the only SAFE social media.
My, how times have changed.
Enter social media management platforms, like our friends at Hearsay Social. Control of all company-official social accounts through one centralized portal allows businesses to maintain their brand consistency AND avoid unfortunate snafus, all while providing the tools—such as archiving, user permissions, and review functionality—that enable an organized record of all corporate social content to be maintained for legal and regulatory requirements. In the past, social media compliance was seen largely as a reactive, backward-facing function: content needed to be documented in the event that it would be needed later. But what began as a record-keeping and storage function has now expanded to management and filtering of content before it is even published to the web. Proactive AND reactive control of a particular data type, all in one elegant and singular environment.
Sound familiar? Of course it does. One repository for long-term control and management of unstructured data has long been ZL’s philosophy. Platforms such as Hearsay Social specialize, effectively doing the same thing for social media’s specific needs, adding in best-of-breed functionality for the unique demands of real-time public-corporate interactions. Pre-review the content of company posts, blocking the ones that might be inappropriate or violate regulations before they even hit the web? Why, of course. Have your social cake and eat it too.
At ZL, we talk a lot about leveraging the “management layer,” ensuring that data from different sources and platforms can be funneled and de-duplicated for long-term management within a central repository. We’ve long managed social data, but ZL’s Unified Archive isn’t an end-user social publishing dashboard in itself. That’s where our recent partnership with Hearsay comes in. Their social portal creates its own management layer for all related social accounts, and ZL forms the foundational management layer for unstructured data as a category. What the partnership enables is an eventual ecosystem in which social media teams use their preferred dashboard for management and compliance of all social accounts, with the data being offloaded for permanent management by ZL.
It’s the best of both worlds. Dedicated social media management platforms create a safety net of pre-determined parameters in line with the brand’s “voice” and compliance needs, unlocking the potential for employees to engage with the public in real time without thumbing through the brand social media manual for every last hashtag. ZL helps large organizations manage massive amounts of data permanently, with single data copies, for multiple interrelated requirements. With our new partnership and others in the works, everyone will get to stick with doing what they do best, without having to endure tedious retraining or convoluted procedures that hamper productivity. Most importantly, the partnership allows the enterprise to leverage leading social compliance controls while still aggregating social content into the SAME platform as other insight-rich data such as emails, files, CRM, and other human communication.
So when it comes to social media and the enterprise, are we finally out of the awkward adolescent years? Time will tell. Give or take the occasional rebellious streak, it seems as if social media is mellowing with age and gaining the mutual respect of its compliance “parents.”