Why Does Social Media Archiving Matter?
What is Social Media Archiving for Government, Education & Healthcare?
These days, public agencies have to be active on social media to effectively reach their citizens and ensure they are informed, educated, and engaged. With platforms like Facebook, X, and YouTube, agencies can share upcoming events, make emergency announcements, and even post recordings of recent meetings. The benefits are clear – open lines of communication improve transparency and bolster public trust, and higher levels of community engagement mean more community involvement and support. But it’s important to remember that, though social media may feel informal, all electronic communications are public records according to federal and most state records laws.
If your state requires that social media content be archived as part of public records (check your state’s laws with The CivicPlus® map tool here), then they are subject to public records requests. Simply relying on social media platforms to store your old posts and comments is not enough to complete information requests. In fact, the platforms have confirmed that they are not responsible for retaining any of your social media records. This is why a social media archive is so important. A good social media archive allows governments and other public entities to engage safely with their community online by recording posts, media, and comments from the agency’s page.
Why Social Media Content is Public Record
It is important to remember that what is considered a public record isn’t determined by the channel but by the content covered. If a citizen makes a statement or question about policy in a public meeting, it can be considered a public record. Likewise, if a resident makes a statement or question about policy in the comments section of a social media post, it can be considered a public record. Many agencies use social media to communicate important information because of its accessibility and reach, which makes the page’s content public record.
Social Media Companies are Private Entities
Because social media platforms are run by private companies, as such, they are not bound by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or any state public records law, and they are not required to retain their users’ content forever.
So, the burden of capturing and storing social media content falls to public agencies themselves. Trying to manually capture posts and comments, which may be edited or deleted by commenters, is not just time-consuming – it’s impossible against these 24/7 platforms. Investing in a social media archiving solution can bring agencies into compliance with records laws and organize their online presence.
Page Moderation, Records Laws, and the First Amendment
It’s essential to bring your agency’s social media use into compliance with federal and state records laws and with the First Amendment. Failure to fulfill a records request or violation of the First Amendment leaves agencies subject to lawsuits. Having records available in a searchable archive makes finding records related to a certain topic, event, or person quick and easy, even in cases where content has been deleted or hidden.
Hiding or deleting content may seem like common-sense page moderation, but that can run afoul of the First Amendment. Deleting comments or blocking users is sometimes necessary but can put agencies and their employees in murky legal waters. Some kinds of speech on social media are protected, while others are not. Having a record of what exactly was deleted or hidden and the context around it can help answer legal challenges to the difficult decisions communicators make every day.
In the case of legal challenges, it’s also important to collect and store metadata. Metadata, also known as “embedded data,” is literally data about data, and it’s invisible if you’re just looking at a page. Metadata on social media can tell you who posted something, from what device, at what time, and more. US courts have found screenshots of comment threads and direct messages insufficient evidence by themselves. While screenshots can be doctored, metadata always tells the real story.
The Benefits of a Social Media Archiving Solution
The archiving solution you choose should be able to connect to the top social media platforms and remain connected, so you never miss content (even if it’s been edited, deleted, or hidden). Deleted comments? You need that. Metadata? You need that. Historical posts? You need that, too.
Benefits Beyond Compliance
While compliance with records laws is the number one reason to maintain a social archive, there are other benefits.
Reviewing past successes and failures can help you improve your social media outreach in the future. Search by keyword or date to find all posts relating to an event or topic. How much engagement did videos about the Founder’s Day celebration get versus images? What questions did people have? Complete records at your fingertips empower your team to learn and improve.
Past social media content can also be a great tool for onboarding new employees tasked with managing social media. Examples of what you’ve done before and how the community responded can help a new employee create engaging and relevant content.
The CivicPlus Difference
The CivicPlus Social Media Archiving solution provides a digital archiving solution that helps government agencies and school districts remain compliant. Comments, posts, pictures, and videos are captured and stored automatically in our SSAE 16-certified cloud data center. Set up is easy – it usually takes less than five minutes to become compliant and start storing your records in near-real-time. With comprehensive capture, we’re able to save social media comments even if they’ve been edited, deleted, or hidden.
This means no more screenshots, no more printouts, and no more lost records. The best part? Finding and exporting content has never been easier with advanced search, you can find the exact content you need in context and easily produce reports of any size.
If you want to learn more about the technology and benefits of using the CivicPlus Social Media Archiving software to ensure social media compliance and mitigate risk, check out our solution overview or request a demo