Information Management, Social Media Analytics Can Help Reduce Legal Risks
Practically any discussion of social media analytics revolves around marketing. This is unfortunate since it diminishes the impact social media analytics should be having in other parts of the company.

One way that social media analytics can be of help is in managing legal risk. There are a number of types of legal risks that companies face on a regular basis -- intellectual property risks, labor law violations, contract issues, e-Discovery and confidentiality breaches -- but all are made worse when the organization is unaware of them. In legal situations, to be surprised is to be at a disadvantage.

The same social media analytics that are used by a companies to understand how their brand is perceived can be used to understand if employees are divulging confidential information on Twitter. The same lexical analysis can tell if you have a part of the company that may be turning into a hostile environment for a class of employees.

Two areas of legal risk management -- intellectual property and labor issues -- stand out as areas where social media analytics can be of help.

Intellectual Property Risk

There are two types of intellectual property risk that can be mitigated by social media analytics. The first is unintentional disclosures of insider information. When intellectual property is disclosed prematurely, it can affect the ability of an organization to profit from its inventions. The organization may no longer be able to receive a patent for its inventions and trade secrets will no longer be secret and protected.

If social media is the avenue for such disclosures, social media analytics may be able to pick up this type of activity allowing the company to stop it before the information spreads. At the very least, leakers may be discovered and kept from leaking any additional information.

Another area where social media analytics can help rein in intellectual property risk is in discovering trademark and copyright infringers, especially counterfeiters. Use of a trademark without permission can damage a company in many ways, not the least of which are lost revenue and dilution of the brand. Social media analytics can surface who is using a company’s name or logo or selling possibly counterfeit products.

Human Resources and Labor Issues

There are many regulations and laws that pertain to human resources, especially for large enterprises and public companies. Certain comments can help create a hostile work environment or signal attitudes that run afoul of equal opportunity hiring laws. Negative attitudes are rarely uttered in company emails anymore or even within earshot the people they would offend. They are, however, posted on social media sites.

Social media analytics provides the means to detect some of the attitudes early enough so that corrective actions can be taken. If a company finds its name associated with racist or sexist remarks or is seen as a place that is hostile to certain classes of people, it is would be better to know about it and correct it rather than have to litigate it. And, if litigation does occur, it’s better to not be in the dark about what is being said from within and about the company.

Social media analytics can help companies understand their supply chains, recruit new workers and do so much more than brand management. This new breed of software can also help detect and manage legal risks that can affect a company’s litigation costs and revenues. And that is a much easier ROI to calculate than the effect of a positive brand sentiment.

Title image courtesy of ml (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more of Tom's thoughts in The Impact of Social, Mobile and Cloud