As covered in a previous post, it is important for government agencies to develop strategies for capturing and keeping records created through social media use.
A quick survey conducted by NSW State Records into the social media use and record-keeping procedures of government agencies found that the majority of respondents did not have adequate social media record keeping procedures.
Only 20 per cent of respondents said they captured records of all business conducted via social media, while another 22 per cent said they captured only some records.
Of these participants capturing records, 34 per cent said they were using manual screenshots to record an interaction, while only 29 per cent said they use a third party tool or service.
Of the 60 per cent of respondents who reported not recording social media activities at all, 42 per cent said they didn’t have the tools to do it.
This last statistic may say more about staff knowledge than the availability of social media record keeping tools, as there are some simple ways agencies can keep appropriate social media records without excessive effort.
One simple solution is to simply take RSS feeds from an agency’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts and store them in a document. Another easier but more labour intensive approach is to take screen shots and save them as PDFs.
Beyond that, there is a range of web-based services available for social media record keeping. Many offer other useful features too, such as scheduled publishing and automated set-and-forget archiving.
Here’s a few we think you might like:
Wei.to is a new Australian company focused on public sector records management, providing a service that lets agencies archive online and social-media data into their own records management systems rather than have them hosted by a third party.
The service has been designed to meet Australian record keeping requirements and removes most of the manual steps from recording social media updates or websites.
Wei.to allows agencies to capture a complete record of social media interactions, capturing all of the additional contextual information, such as embedded links and the content linked to. This is valuable when, for example, an agency announces a new policy on Twitter and links to it, as a record of the Tweet without the policy link may not be adequate for record keeping purposes.
Backupify uses web-based software to help users back-up and archive information from online sites such as Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and Gmail.
One of the best back-up systems available for social media, Backupify does require constant monitoring. It stores archives on its own servers and, while the company might be reliable, from a governance perspective these archives are nonetheless stored offsite by a third-party. If Backupify went bankrupt, was hacked or otherwise lost its ability to keep holding these records they could be lost, therefore agencies should plan to regularly download archives into their agency for safety.
Backupify works across a range of social media platforms, as well as with Google Docs and Salesforce applications, making it very versatile.
One of the more commonly known social network management tools is HootSuite, which lets users manage several social media applications from the one place using a dashboard format.
HootSuite isn’t just for publishing however, it allow users to monitor their social media activity as it occurs in real-time and track who has posted comments, re-tweeted content, or otherwise interacted with the agency via those channels.
Hootsuite does allow users to create archives based on keywords, which can then be downloaded and stored. This isn’t a particularly developed system – and only works for Twitter – however can do the job in a pinch if required.
Tweet Archivist is a tool that allows you to archive, analyse and export Twitter records. Like HootSuite, you do need to set criteria for Tweet Archivist to know which Tweets to archive, either by a keyword, hashtag or @username.
What is particularly useful with this tool is that it will analyse your archive for you as well. Users can select from nine properties Tweet Archivist will analyse, including top users, hashtags, sentiment and general tone through top word analysis, and the top URLs for a topic.
Designed especially for business record keeping needs, ArchiveSocial pegs itself as being built for compliance, e-discovery, digital preservation and records management. Archiving is automated, and users can instantly search and locate social media activity in its original format along with associated metadata.
Another option is Archive-It, a subscription web archiving service from the non-profit digital library Internet Archive, developed to help organisations capture and store digital content archives.
Archive-It collects, compiles and manages fully searchable collections of archived content and provides round-the-clock access.
A ‘How To’ guide for Archive-It is published online with helpful web archiving tips and, of particular interest, specific guidelines for archiving Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo.
How long should archives be kept?
Another important aspect for agencies to consider is the length of time the archives of social media records should be kept.
Existing policies vary depending on the type of information. Wei.to gives the following general guidelines for social media retention periods:
- public discussion and consultations – five years
- general local government announcements – five years
- community liaison activities – three years
- emergency management functions – 25 years, or indefinitely.
This makes it important to consider record keeping requirements when selecting an online engagement platform, beyond using social media.
As detailed above agencies must keep records of the submissions in online consultation and engagements for around five years.
That’s no surprise as these activities are designed to provide input directly into decision-making – the reason for most record keeping.
Delib’s engagement platform, Citizen Space, natively allows agencies to manage, organise and publicise online consultations from the same system, as well as archive all data captured in the consultation. Agencies have complete control over the data they submit and collect and can export all it at any time using a simple control panel.
Using the engagement systems from other companies can be a little more hit and miss. Some provide excellent tools for downloading citizen input, but no way of capturing the information you originally entered. Others take ownership of all the data in the system as well as the details submitted by users, placing agencies in a difficult legal position.
We recommend that you always consider record keeping needs when selecting an online engagement platform. It can be very hard to ‘reverse-engineer’ a way to get to your records if these systems don’t support appropriate record keeping upfront.