The use of social media by organisations when dealing with the public needs regulation to protect sensitive information from being divulged by blundering staff, according to Ovum. "The financial services industry has already made it a requirement that communications through social media are recorded and retained. We think this needs to go a step further and that all organisations using social media to interact with customers should be regulated," said Aphrodite Brinsmead, an analyst with Ovum.
The firm noted that more and more public and private sector organisations have begun to respond to customer queries and complaints via tools such as Twitter and Facebook.
In addition, Ovum believes peer-to-peer support conducted via social media should be monitored, to ensure that customers do not unintentionally pass on incorrect information.
"While social media should still allow customers to interact and express themselves, we believe they need to be protected from having sensitive information spread on the Internet by staff who may not understand how to treat such enquiries. For these reasons, we believe regulations are a necessary evil," said Brinsmead.
As well as regulation, Aphrodite believes it is now time for organisations to stop experimenting with social media and start putting in place formal strategies.
"Customers enjoy the fast response rates and good service that social media allows and more and more enquiries will be made this way. However, every organisation should have a strategy and guidelines in place so staff understand how to treat them," said Brinsmead.
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