As the last election cycle made abundantly clear, social media is currently an influential, indispensable part of American life. And, as it worms its way ever deeper into our relationships, our professional activities, and our culture as a whole, its impact on discovery is growing as well:
Unfortunately, the nature, diversity, and volume of social media data present a variety of challenges for practitioners, both technical and legal. In this multi-part blog series, we will explore some of those challenges and the ways they can be met. Questions we will touch on include:
We begin our exploration in this first Part with an overview of the major social media sources you are likely to encounter.
Although there are numerous social media services and applications, the vast majority of use activity is centered on five services: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Pew Research Center’s 2016 Social Media Update reveals that, as of spring 2016, “68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users, while 28% use Instagram, 26% use Pinterest, 25% use LinkedIn and 21% use Twitter” [emphasis added]. Additionally, 56% of online adults use two or more of these five services.
These five services – Facebook in particular – will be your most likely social media sources:
In addition to these five primary services, there are a wide variety of (much) smaller social media services competing for users. Some are very similar to the majors (e.g., Google+), while others have carved out small, distinct niches of their own with different features or focuses (e.g., Snapchat, Reddit, or Tumblr).
Additionally, an increasing number of smartphone owners (72% of American adults) are also adopting the use of new messaging applications as an alternative to text messages or messaging through one of the major social media services. These applications come in both general purpose (e.g., WhatsApp) and auto-deleting (e.g. Wickr) varieties, and they are much more popular among the young, suggesting a major shift in sources may be coming in the future:
Some 56% of smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 use auto-delete apps, more than four times the share among those 30-49 (13%) and six times the share among those 50 or older (9%). Similarly, 42% of smartphone owners ages 18 to 29 use more general messaging apps like WhatsApp or Kik, compared with 19% of smartphone owners ages 50 or older.
Upcoming in this Series
In the next part of this series, “What Social Media ESI Can Be Collected in eDiscovery,” we will go into more technical detail about the materials available from these kinds of sources, and we will begin our review of the available options for preservation and collection of those materials.
About the Author
Matthew Verga, JD
Director, Education and Content Marketing
Matthew Verga is an electronic discovery expert proficient at leveraging his legal experience as an attorney, his technical knowledge as a practitioner, and his skills as a communicator to make complex eDiscovery topics accessible to diverse audiences. A ten-year industry veteran, Matthew has worked across every phase of the EDRM and at every level from the project trenches to enterprise program design. He leverages this background to produce engaging educational content to empower practitioners at all levels with knowledge they can use to improve their projects, their careers, and their organizations.