Call it archiving, the sequel.
Many service providers, resellers and consulting firms already do a brisk business backing up customer email. But those same customers now face another records retention challenge: archiving social media.
Companies and employees use blogs, social networking sites and other Web 2.0 tools every day to reach out to consumers and sell their services. Those communications carry a compliance burden, however. Regulated companies are under pressure to preserve their Twitter tweets and Facebook posts as well as email and instant messages.
And therein lies an opportunity for the IT channel. Resellers and managed services providers that already run an archiving business can add social media as an additional service line. An archiving feature also can augment vertical solutions geared toward regulated industries.
Social media archiving as incremental line item
Interested in archiving? You have two choices: build your own or ally with someone who already has. As for the second route, social media archiving vendors such as Actiance, Arkovi and Erado Message Control Solutions offer partnering opportunities.
It could be the right time to consider this branch of archiving. Channel executives say more customers are conceding the need to keep tabs on social media missives -- even if they don’t always formally endorse the technology.
“Business transactions and communications are happening through Web-oriented, consumer-oriented technology,” said Nick Mehta, chief executive officer of LiveOffice LLC, which offers managed services and cloud-based archiving. “Employees are using Web technologies to work, whether or not the company sanctions that.”
Financial sector takes the lead
Financial services firms are at the forefront of social media retention. Much of the impetus comes from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which issued guidelines specific to social media in January 2010. FINRA regulations apply to broker-dealers and other financial firms.
The FINRA notice states, “Every firm that intends to communicate, or permit its associated persons to communicate, through social media sites must first ensure that it can retain records of those communications.” In addition, FINRA-regulated firms must have a “registered principal” -- a company official with compliance responsibilities -- review social media communication prior to publication.
The Securities and Exchange Commission, meanwhile, reportedly conducted a sweep earlier this year focusing on registered investment advisers and their use of social media. A wide swath of financial services firms are now on alert.
“Pretty much every brokerage firm, every investment adviser, even hedge funds are all looking at their strategies for archiving and supervising social media,” Mehta said.
LiveOffice launched its social media archiving service in March. The company’s technology captures social media in the same cloud-based system it uses to capture email and IM, Mehta explained. LiveOffice, which archives Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, also lets companies supervise social media for policy violations.
Other service and solution providers partner to offer their financial customers social media archiving.
Triplestop LLC, a Wilton, Conn., marketing agency, integrated Arkovi’s archival software into its marketeRIA, a content management system for registered investment advisers, noted Joe Polidoro, president and director of strategy at Triplestop.
WinWeb, a software-as-a-service provider for small and medium-sized businesses, pursued a similar course. The company developed an offering for registered investment advisers and wanted to include a social media archiving component. WinWeb in May decided to partner with Arkovi for that feature, even though it has its own email archiving capability.
Stefan Töpfer, WinWeb’s chief executive officer and chairman, said archiving social media is trickier than doing so for other forms of communication. In addition, only a small segment of WinWeb’s client base requires that kind of service -- perhaps a couple of hundred customers out of more than 120,000 clients.
Töpfer said his company increasingly brings up social media archiving in discussions with customers.
“We are mentioning ... that this sort of technology exists, particularly where business owners have been a little bit burned in terms of some employees making comments on social networking sites,” he said.
Beyond financial services
René Schimmer, offering manager for social software, IBM Collaboration Software, said he sees social media archiving as an emerging field in regulated industries such as financial services and health care. But even companies in non-regulated sectors could benefit from preserving their social media messages, he suggested. Companies involved in lawsuits, for example, must produce relevant information -- whether it’s recorded in public-facing blogs, customer support forums or email.
IBM will soon resell Actiance’s archiving software in conjunction with IBM Connections, IBM’s social platform for enterprises. IBM Connections lets customers create blogs, wikis and forums, and the integration of Actiance will provide content archiving. Actiance Vantage for IBM Connections will debut this quarter and will be available for IBM partners via the Passport Advantage channel.
Mehta, meanwhile, also cited e-discovery as an opportunity for social media archiving. He pointed to product liability as one niche, noting that companies may use social media tools to make claims regarding product safety.
John Moore is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based freelance writer, reachable at email@example.com.