To effectively reach their community and guarantee that they are informed, educated, and engaged, organizations must be active on social media these days. The advantages are obvious: open lines of communication increase transparency and public trust, and higher levels of community participation result in more community involvement and support.
However, keep in mind that, while social media may appear to be informal, all electronic interactions are public records under federal and most state records laws.
If your state mandates that social media content be stored as part of the public record, then they are subject to public records requests. And merely storing old posts and comments on social networking platforms isn’t enough to fulfill information requests.
In reality, the platforms have said that they are not liable for the storage of any of your social network data. This is why having a social media archive is crucial. By recording posts, media, and comments from the agency’s page, a robust social media archive lets organizations connect safely with their community online.
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Why do organizations need social media archiving?
Laws and regulations regarding social media management
It’s critical to comply with federal and state records requirements, as well as the First Amendment when it comes to your organization’s use of social media. Organizations may face legal action if they fail to comply with a records request or violate the First Amendment.
Finding records pertaining to a specific topic, event, or person is quick and straightforward when they are stored in a searchable archive, even if the content has been erased or buried.
Hiding or deleting content may appear to be common-sense page management, but it may violate the First Amendment. Although it is occasionally necessary to delete comments or block individuals, doing so can place organizations and their workers in legal hot water.
On social media, some types of expression are protected, while others are not. Having a record of what was deleted or buried, as well as the circumstances around it, can assist communicators to respond to legal challenges to the difficult decisions they face every day.
It’s also crucial to gather and maintain metadata in the event of legal disputes. Metadata is data about data that is invisible to the naked eye when viewing a page. On social media, metadata may tell you who submitted something, what device they used, when they shared it, and more. Screenshots of comment threads and direct communications have been deemed insufficient evidence by US courts. While screenshots can be manipulated, metadata always reveals the truth.
Social media content is considered public information
It’s vital to remember that the information presented, not the channel, determines what is considered a public record. Depending on your industry, how you present yourself publicly online, and how you interact with the public, your organization’s social media content may be considered a public record.
Government agencies, for example, are required by the Federal Records Act to retain all records, including social media posts, for as long as they are needed.
Whether you are a private business or government agency, social media content is a public record if it relates to the organization’s activities. For example,
- A hospital’s social media content (including patient photos) is subject to public records requests.
- A school’s social media content (including photos of students) is subject to public records requests.
- A public college’s social media content (including information about applicants and students) is subject to public records requests.
- A police department’s social media content regarding crime investigations would be subject to public records requests.
Social media companies are private entities
Because social media platforms are owned and operated by private firms, they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or any state public records legislation and thus are not compelled to keep their users’ content for an indefinite period of time.
As a result, it is up to organizations to collect and store social media content. Manually capturing posts and comments, which may be altered or deleted by commentators, is not only time-consuming — it’s impracticable in the face of these 24-hour platforms. Organizations can comply with records regulations and arrange their online presence by investing in a social media archiving service.
The advantages of having a social media archive
Your social media archiving solution should be able to connect to the most popular social networking platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. It should also be configurable so that users can assemble a custom solution that meets their organization’s unique needs.
While the primary reason for keeping a social archive is to comply with records regulations, there are other advantages.
Examining prior successes and disappointments can help you better your future social media marketing efforts. Past social media content might also be useful for onboarding new staff who are responsible for social media management. Examples of previous work and how the community reacted can assist a new employee in developing engaging and relevant material.
When your organization’s social media content is readily accessible for public records requests, you can:
- Archive all social media content from your social networking pages to a central repository
- Eliminate the risk of losing your social presence altogether by archiving all content from your profile page, including posts and comments, media (photos and videos), and messages
- Collect and organize social media content
- Build reports to track metrics and engagement
- Monitor for policy violations
- Track, monitor, and archive keywords and hashtags that are relevant to your industry, brand, or campaign
- Maintain a record of social media content that was deleted or hidden, and the circumstances around it
- Resolve disputes and legal issues and minimize risk and liability
Social media archiving provides organizations with peace of mind that their content is preserved and easily accessible so that they can continue connecting with their audience and develop new strategies to meet their goals.
As social networks continue to change their policies and terms of service, archiving social media content is a proactive way for organizations to ensure compliance, protect their online reputation, and expand their reach.