6 tools to help firms track social media

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Photo of Ralph Losey by Ben Van Hook.

There’s a pressing need for a tool that can monitor and archive everything a law firm’s client says and does on social media, given that more and more e-discovery demands are including data generated by employee mobile devices.

More than 41 percent of firms surveyed last year reported having to preserve or collect such data to satisfy litigation or inves-tigation needs, according to Fulbright’s 9th Annual Litigation Trends Report. That was up from 32 percent the prior year.

Getting all the email and texts generated by mobile devices seems manageable. But social media is a different animal. There’s no one-size-fits-all tool to capture and archive what appears on social media, since many social networks have their own, proprietary method for storing and displaying data.

The result: Software makers have to create a separate program for many of the proprietary networks they want to access—one for Facebook, another for LinkedIn, a third for Twitter and so on.

“Granted that not every social media site develops its own software—many of them use available forum creation technology,” says Christine Taylor, an analyst at Taneja Group, a technology analysis firm based in Hopkinton, Mass. “But even finding these new sites, not to mention collecting from them, is resource-intensive and nonproportional in most cases.”


So far, at least some attorneys—including Ralph Losey, an Orlando, Fla.-based partner and national e-discovery counsel at Jackson Lewis—are willing to live with the fact that comprehensive monitoring of social media is still elusive.

“For now, in most but not all cases, these big three are adequate,” Losey says about Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Looking ahead, those familiar with current tools are hoping for much more powerful, next-generation solutions that would be able to capture and archive all the moving parts of a communication exchange.

“For instance, if a posting says something like ‘I’m having breakfast at this great restaurant,’ and there is a picture of what they are eating,’’ says Chuck Rothman, director of e-discovery services at Toronto’s Wortzman Nickle law firm, “the software should also be able to show the GPS coordinates, other people they are with, information about the restaurant, etc., so that the whole story is presented, not just the text.”

As for the ultimate dream tool—a social media monitoring/archiving package with a seemingly endless supply of tentacles that can reach into every social network on the Web, no matter how arcane and obscure—is it on the way?

“I strongly doubt we will see a software product that can monitor every post on every conceivable social network, discussion board, video upload site or other Web application,” says Michael Fluhr, a San Francisco-based associate at Carroll, Burdick & McDonough. “Developing functionality for each Web application requires too large of a commitment to allow for such an omnibus software product.”

Counters Losey: “I do envision a day when a software product will be able to monitor every post on every conceivable social network, discussion board, video upload site, etc. In fact, it might already exist, even if not yet commercially available.”

Meanwhile, though attorneys may never have such tools, some solutions are emerging that can hit some hot spots. Here are some software makers to check out in the here and now:

X1 Social Discovery monitors and collects posts from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and can also crawl and archive websites, email and YouTube.

Hanzo Archives products capture and archive Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and include YouTube, blogs, customer forums, wikis and websites.

Socialite, says maker Actiance, captures and archives employee use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and promises to satisfy regulatory, legal and corporate compliance requirements associated with those networks.

SocialWare provides a number of software products that capture and archive posts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and promises to meet monitoring and compliance requirements for the finance industry.

Gremln promises compliant social media communication for companies regulated by the federal government, including financial services and health care.

FTI Consulting’s technology practice offers staff that law firms can source for everyday (and highly specialized) social media e-discovery needs.

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