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Timeline = Time for Social Media Audit, Plan

Facebook yesterday officially rolled out its “Timeline” feature. This new view shows your profile as a progression of posts since you joined and makes it easier for off-hand remarks to appear (provided you do not tweak Timeline to avoid showing these) and to potentially impact both you and your organization. This risk is multiplied in a large professional services organization with hundreds of employees and dozens of variations on Facebook’s privacy settings. The bottom line is that now, more than ever, is a good time for a social media audit.

The dawning of Timeline is a stark reminder that individuals and businesses need to be mindful of what they say online as nothing really ever goes away. For instance, with Timeline, a remark such as, “The people I interviewed with today were boring!” now rises from the dead and is displayed in just a few page scrolls. Those boring people might now be your bosses.

Timeline is easy to pick on because it is new and will no doubt leave many users bleary-eyed as they scroll through the seemingly innocuous remarks they have made over the years. The reality is that valuable competitive information and ammunition for detractors is often easily available on social networking super sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Auditing what you and your company are revealing is critical to protecting privacy and minimizing potential reputational issues.

While an audit can provide a 30,000-foot view of your social media participation, the nitty-gritty of employee handbooks and determining appropriate activity is left to your legal counsel and human resources department. However, the twin component of an audit is producing a strategy for participation on these channels.

Previously, I wrote about the Qwikster debacle at Netflix and how it failed to do an audit prior to launching and was inadvertently directing traffic to a young man with questionable interests who happened to own the @Qwikster handle. This sort of scenario continues unabated. The Philadelphia 76ers recently bought two handles for potential team mascots that were squatted on (in a nice way, they were entrepreneurs,) by fans. Remember, without a plan you are one disgruntled employee or prankster away from situations like the fake BP PR news feed (@BPGlobalPR).

Participation on sites frequented by millions of users is becoming less and less optional. You need to be in front of these audiences. However, by thinking strategically, you can greatly expand your marketing and PR efforts.

–  Michael Bond

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