New York politician Anthony Weiner's sexting scandal. Actor Ashton Kutcher's defense of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Former corporate communication director Justine Sacco's racist comment.

If mistakes like these have taught us nothing else, it's that social media can create viral reactions that linger on and on. It also proves that, contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as bad publicity.

What are the consequences?  In an office environment, not only is a job on the line for the offending employee, but companies can easily find themselves at the wrong end of a lawsuit filed by the offended worker.

What's worse, many companies have yet to establish social media polices — and even some that do adopt policies find they may violate federal labor laws.

Growing Challenge


Kris Vann, counsel for information governance at Actiance, notes that loose chatter, even at unregulated companies, is becoming a larger problem as more companies rush to adopt Microsoft Office 365, including Lync instant messaging and Exchange for email. The company is responding by upping the capabilities of its Governance Platform.

Within regulated industries, an alphabet soup of federal and state regulators -- SEC, FTC, CFTC, etc. -- often require detailed record keeping in regulated industries like finance and healthcare. Actiance said it can help with compliance reviews as well.

“Cases are going beyond email now," Vann said in a statement Thursday as her company released what it called a first-to-market tool to manage such info. "Instant messaging and social forum communications are increasingly showing up in lawsuits around employee harassment, discrimination, product liability, defamation, breach of contract and other types of civil litigation."

According to IDC's latest  survey of enterprise communications managers, 53 percent currently have or are planning cloud-based unified communications projects, up from 42 percent in the 2013 survey.

"Microsoft reports that 60 percent of enterprises today have deployed or are planning to deploy either Microsoft Lync on premises or Microsoft Lynch Online in the cloud," said Rich Costello, IDC's senior research analysts for unified and enterprise communications. IDC predicts a compound annual growth rate of about 20-30 percent over the next few years. 

Scott Whitney, Actiance's vice president for product management, said its Governance Platform was designed to help companies meet their eDiscovery and record-keeping requirements for Exchange and Lync, going beyond the limited native Office 365 archiving capabilities. 

Lync's Limits

"Lync Online IMs are stored in individual user mailboxes rather than to the Lync archiving database," said Greg Buckles, research consultant at the eDJ Group, who was quoted by Actiance. "Users can disable IM conversation history.  There is no centralized management functionality to monitor or ensure tamper-proof protections for IMs or file transfers."

Actiance said its Vantage product allows companies to scan communications for messages requiring review by a supervisor while its Alcatraz cloud archive serves as a repository and can ease eDiscovery costs by displaying social content in context.