The United States regualtor, the SEC, recently updated its guidance on disclosure of company information on websites and blogs to include use of social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter – and not just for social commentary, but to make public announcements of material information (as long as investors have previously been alerted to the company’s intention to use those channels).
While this clarification currently applies only to companies that fall under the aegis of the SEC, it is likely to be replicated by other regulators over the next months. While organisations that still ban staff from using social media, whether Facebook, Twitter or any other channel, will start falling even further behind the curve than they are now, the social media governance imperative for those who are keeping up with the times becomes even more important: “disclosure of material, nonpublic information on the personal social media site of an individual corporate officer — without advance notice to investors that the site may be used for this purpose — is unlikely to qualify as an acceptable method of disclosure under the securities laws,” says the SEC.
Put simply, this means that organisations have to govern carefully what information is disclosed, and through which social media channels (the origins of this SEC ruling was a posting on his personal Facebook page, by the Netflix CEO, of data about monthly viewing figures – which spiked an almost immediate rise in the Netflix share price).
The starting point is a Social Media Policy, supported by a set of procedures that cover issues like disclosure authorisation, marketing requirements, archiving, legal compliance and so on; everything, in fact, that you can find in this Social Media Governance Toolkit – which is a document suite designed to integrate governance of social media usage into a broader information security management system, such as that specified by ISO27001.