Strategies for managing social media information: How to keep records of government social media business February 8, 2013

Social media recordkeeping

Social media recordkeeping



State Records has developed a draft set of advice called Strategies for managing social media information.

With so much government business taking advantage of the opportunities offered by social media, this advice explores the issues, opportunities and options for managing social media information.

This guideline contains a range of strategies, examples and case studies to help you determine:

The guidance has lots of advice and examples but we would love your feedback to make it is as practical and as helpful as it can be.  We would particularly like feedback from frontline staff working with social media. We genuinely want all comments and advice, big and small, particularly on issues we have missed or misinterpreted. We would also love feedback on how we can better structure this guidance so that it is clear and easy to use.

We will upload a PDF next week with the consolidated guidance but in the meantime, here are a few posts outlining our Strategies for managing social media information.

Strategies for managing social media information

Government business is moving to social media

Important government business is moving to social media applications.

Social media is a group of online applications such as social networking sites, wikis, blogs, microblogs, video and audio sharing sites, and message boards that allow people to easily publish, share and discuss content. (NSW Department of Education and Communities Social media guidelines, 2011)

Key government drivers such as the NSW ICT Strategy encourage widespread use of social media for government business to:

  • improve customer services
  • increase access to information, and
  • involve the community directly in government decision making.

If business is moving, information is moving too

As business information moves to being created or received via social media platforms, organisations will rely on the ongoing accessibility of social media-based business information to support clients, business operations, reporting and public accountabilities.

Social media applications are third party owned and located in the cloud

In general social media applications are:

  • third party owned
  • located in the cloud
  • subject to regular change, and
  • unable to be relied upon to maintain high risk or long term business information.

Therefore, if you need the business information that is moving to social media, you need to make plans for how you will manage it

With increasing business mandates for social media use and with large numbers of government organisations adopting social media applications, it is important for all organisations to consider what corporate and business information is moving to social media platforms and to develop strategies that ensure this information is maintained and accessible as required.

Example: Important business information is already residing in social media applications

  • many members of the public are engaging with government via social media and are asking significant questions of government and its decision making processes via social media channels
  • public consultation on significant policies, development proposals etc is already taking place on social media
  • social media is now a prime means of communication and advice in emergencies, such as flood and bushfires


Example: NSW Government business is already moving: results of State Records social media survey

In a May 2012 voluntary survey of NSW public offices, State Records found that 80% of responding organisations reported using social media.

Facebook and Twitter were the most popular social media channels (77% and 63% of respondents), with YouTube, Yammer and wikis not far behind.

60%  of respondents do not capture records of their social media business activities, and 20% only sometimes capture records.

17% of respondents reported that they had already lost records of their social media operations.


What this guidance does

This guidance  will provide you with advice on ways you can ensure that your organisation has the information it needs from its social media applications to sustain its business operations.

This guideline contains a range of strategies, examples and case studies to help you determine:

  • what business information is being generated by your corporate social media accounts
  • the risk and long term business value of this information
  • the different recordkeeping strategies that should be used to capture and keep social media records
  • how long different types of social media records need to be kept.

This guideline is an extension and update to State Records 2009 advice, Records Management and Web 2.0.


Examples of different types of social media applications commonly used in Government, and what they are being used for

Micro-blogging sites

Examples: Twitter, Yammer
Used for:
  • providing advice or updates to users and/or staff
  • consultation
  • issuing media releases and public statements
  • promoting online content and resources
  • promoting events or services
  • emergency broadcasts
  • creating communities of interest
  • providing a mechanism for open feedback
  • answering enquiries
  • identifying sources of internal and external knowledge and expertise
  • building knowledge and awareness
See: State Records NSW Twitter account: @srnsw

Social and professional networking sites

Examples: Facebook, LinkedIn
Used for:
  • providing advice or updates to users and/or staff
  • internal networking, collaboration and education
  • consultation
  • receiving public enquiries and feedback
  • issuing media releases and public statements
  • promoting online content and resources, including multimedia resources
  • promoting events or services
  • emergency broadcasts
  • creating communities of interest
  • sharing knowledge and experience
See: NSW Police Facebook page

Video and photo sharing websites

Examples: YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram
Used for:
  • sharing and promoting resources
  • promoting events or services
  • making government information more broadly available
  • enhancing the accessibility of government services
  • sharing client experiences
See: Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal YouTube channel

Weblogs or blogs

Examples: Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress
Used for:
  • corporate communication
  • public advice and feedback
  • providing a central location for discussion and feedback
  • regular reporting on a project, program or strategy
  • building an online community
  • sharing knowledge and expertise
See: Archives Outside blog


Examples: Wikipedia
Used for:
  • project management
  • peer review of documentation
  • public review of documentation
  • enabling cross-organisational collaboration
  • collaborating with external business partners
  • sharing of large amounts of business-specific information
  • tracking changes to documentation
  • building knowledge and communities
See: US State Department Diplopedia

Forums and discussion boards

Examples: Google Groups, Ning, Whirlpool
Used for:
  • professional networking
  • internal networking
  • virtual learning
  • information sharing
  • developing communities of practice
  • disseminating timely information
See: Archives Live Ning

Collaborative editing tools

Examples: Google Docs
Used for:
  • project management
  • peer review of documentation
  • enabling cross-organisational collaboration
  • reducing ICT costs and infrastructure
  • tracking comments, versions and changes to documentation

 Examples above drawn in part from State Records Records Management and Web 2.0


What you need to do to implement effective social media recordkeeping in your organisation

1. Understand the specific information risks that apply to social media

2. Know what your organisation is doing with social media

3. Develop a social media information strategy

4. Support your organisation’s use of social media with a policy, a policy that supports recordkeeping

5. Be proactive

6. Keep an eye out to see how social media systems evolve


1. Understand the specific information risks that apply to social media

Case study: Free services are great, but they can disappear

iGoogle, a free Google service that offered users the ability to build a customised home page, could be used as a personalised social media monitoring tool. In July 2012 Google announced it will shut down iGoogle in November 2013.Developing strategies to export relevant social media information and incorporate it into relevant business processes and systems is important for maintaining business and information continuity.



Case study: Terms and conditions of online services can change

Instagram’s decision to change its terms and conditions so that after 16 January 2013 it will have the right to sell user’s content to advertisers without permission, is an example of how user rights and permissions can change radically in social media systems.While you may not be able to control how others use your social media information, you can develop processes to ensure you have your business information whenever you need it.Maintain control over your social media information by exporting this information out of social media systems and importing it into environments that are under corporate control.Source:


Case study: But you don’t need to panic – not all social media records need to be captured and kept

State Records NSW runs a Facebook page for its Future Proof strategy.This Facebook page duplicates the information posted to the @FutureProofNSW Twitter account. No information is posted specifically and uniquely on Facebook. * Recordkeeping strategies are in place to capture and keep Twitter records.A very limited number of comments are received on the Future Proof Facebook page. An RSS feed has been set up which enables these comments to be sent as emails to a defined account and these records are captured into the corporate records management system.Therefore, as:

  • the information on Facebook is generally duplicated elsewhere
  • the information does not need to be kept long term
  • Twitter and email already have defined recordkeeping strategies
  • the organisation is prepared to accept the risk that Facebook makes no guarantees of the long term accessibility of the information it hosts

the decision has been made that the Future Proof Facebook page does not need a defined recordkeeping strategy. The organisation has made the business decision to leave these records in Facebook and rely on Facebook to keep them accessible.

* Please note that simply copying and pasting to Facebook is not social media best practice! We apologise to Facebook fans but this is all we can manage at the moment!


2. Know what your organisation is doing with social media

In many organisations there is no coordinated, overarching strategy for social media use. Social media technologies are adopted by different business areas without reference to corporate policies or strategies and without considering the information management requirements for the business they are performing.

This approach can lead to information loss or process duplication, as a lack of corporately available information means staff reproduce effort or operate without all information available to them. It can also mean that important, long term value business information can easily be disappear.

It is therefore important to identify all uses of social media technologies across your organisation and to develop an information management strategy that encompasses all areas of your social media operations.

Tip: Develop a social media hub

A social media hub is a central location on your website, intranet or other accessible corporate location that lists and identifies all your organisation’s different social media sites.One of the challenges of social media recordkeeping is that often there is no consolidated listing of all an organisation’s social media sites. Social media sites are developed by specific business areas for particular projects or communities and often other business areas are unaware of their existence.A hub structure that identifies where these sites are, who has corporate ownership of them, the business area the sites support will promote these sites internally and will also simplify the recordkeeping and other administrative tasks that must be applied to them.

The US Department of Defence has an extensive hub structure for the many social media sites it hosts, as well as the policies and procedures that support these sites.

The social media sites for the different components of the Defense community sit within this hub structure. See for instance the US Army’s social media registry.


Tip: When identifying social media systems, be aware that social media is more than Twitter and Facebook

When looking to manage the business information that is moving to social media, think broader than Facebook and Twitter. Strategic and high risk processes like project management, stakeholder collaboration and joint ventures are utilising wikis and collaborative editing tools, while information for client support and education is moving to YouTube.If your organisation is adopting these types of technologies, make sure you develop strategies to help ensure the effective management of this business information, as well as the information in Twitter and Facebook.


Example: Some organisations are adopting social media business systems

Organisations that have a significant social media presence or that need to broadcast large numbers of emergency messages are starting to utilise off-the-shelf or purpose-built business systems that are used to generate content and then automatically broadcast this through various social media channels.For business systems that have the capacity to broadcast through multiple channels:

  • information will generally be secure in these systems for the length of the system lifespan, but if the system is upgraded, replaced or decommissioned, you will need to determine if any information in the system needs to be kept for ongoing business or legal purposes.
  • you may choose to regularly export high value information out the system throughout its active life and store this in a central records system, rather than determine at system decommission what information requires export or migration for ongoing support and management.

It is important to note that some social media communications, like emergency broadcasts, can have very long legal retention periods, up to 25 years in some cases. An important part of social media recordkeeping strategies therefore is, when business moves to social media platforms, to determine what you need to do in order to keep the records generated in your social media systems for your required retention periods.


3. Develop a social media information strategy

A social media information strategy will enable you to:

  • comprehensively identify what business processes are moving to social media
  • determine what information generated via social media is needed to support these business processes
  • identify the legal and business information use and retention requirements that apply to your social media operations
  • identify the client needs, expectations and public accountabilities that apply to your social media operations
  • identify the business areas in your organisation that need to access, reference, respond to, use or reuse the information generated via your social media channels
  • identify and manage the information that your organisation needs long term access to
  • identify appropriate recordkeeping strategies for high risk, high value business information
  • identify the business records that can stay in their native social media applications

Assessing and understanding each of these will help you to comprehensively determine how your organisation’s social media information can best be captured and managed.

Tips for understanding information needs

In the transition to a social media working environment, it is easy to overlook information management as a key business consideration.When moving to social media you need to understand the information needs of:

  • staff working with social media
  • business staff who need social media information to perform, account for and improve the services they offer
  • staff working in other business areas who need access to social media information for reporting or other business purposes
  • clients and other members of the public who may have expectations for how the information they contribute will be used

Developing strategies to ensure these information needs are met will involve:

  • talking to staff about what information they need to perform their roles
  • mapping current information flows, reporting requirements, accountability requirements
  • assessing client needs and expectations
  • examining the information that was needed and used by staff before the business process moved to social media
  • identifying and implementing an effective recordkeeping strategy – see How do I capture social media records? for more information


4. Support your organisation’s use of social media with a policy, a policy that supports recordkeeping

Once you have a social media information strategy, you should have a social media policy that supports it.

Your organisation should have a policy that outlines:

  • how organisational business will be performed through social media channels
  • the corporate code of conduct for social media use
  • public terms of use for your social media channels, and
  • the information that needs to be captured to support your social media operations.

Here are some NSW government social media policies:

The Online database of government and non-profit social media policies contains hundreds of sample social media policies from around Australia and across the world.

In your policy, be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable, and what is and isn’t possible

In your social media policy and guidelines you can let people know when staff will be available for discussions, what they can and can’t discuss.

This is an important part of your social media information strategy as it gives you the authority to remove inappropriate or offensive content from your accounts.

Example: Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal

The CTTT is a court and so has limitations to the types of advice it can provide to the public. It makes these limitations very clear in its social media policy.

“It is paramount that the CTTT’s dealings with parties are carried out in a way to that ensures one party does not have an advantage over another. This is why, for instance, the CTTT cannot provide legal advice or tell a party how to prepare their case. Parameters need to be in place so that there is no real or perceived conflict of interest in the way the CTTT deals with cases and privacy and confidentiality requirements are met.”

Include acceptable use statements in your policy. These should make clear that abusive, defamatory or threatening behaviour, off topic posts, political discussions or posts that encourage inappropriate or law-breaking activities may result in users being banned from your social media channels.

Example: Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal

The CTTT has included the following statements in its Social media policy and its Social media terms of use:

“The CTTT reserves the sole right to review, edit and/or delete any comments the Tribunal deems inappropriate. Comments including, but not limited to, the following may be deleted or edited by an authorised CTTT officer/s:

  • abusive or hurtful comments about another person or CTTT officers, which may include:
  • inappropriate language (e.g. profanity, racial, ethnic or gender-based language)
  • personal attacks or defamatory statements or comments (e.g. negative personal or untrue comments about a person), instead of just criticising his/her posting, opinion or comments
  • irrelevant and redundant comments (e.g. promotion of events, groups, pages, websites, organisations and programs not related to or affiliated with the CTTT)
  • comments that violate the privacy of Tribunal members, CTTT staff, parties or stakeholders.

Persistent inappropriate use of the CTTT’s social media platforms will lead to the user being blocked and/or reported to the YouTube, Facebook or Twitter Administrator for breach of their terms of use.”

Tell staff and the public that relevant records of social media activities will often need to be kept

Tell staff that they may have responsibility for capturing and keeping the records they make via social media.

It’s important in your policy too to let people know that, if they are needed for business operations or client support, you will be keeping records of your social media operations and that these records may contain publicly available personal information, such as a Twitter handle or Facebook account name.

Make your policy available online

Social media is a public forum. Your corporate rules for engaging in this environment should be publicly available.

5. Be proactive

In most organisations, social media information needs to be managed now. It is important not to wait for the perfect social media strategy or system.

Instead it is important to:
• act now
• test strategies
• refine approaches
• gradually build strong information management and governance frameworks

6. Keep an eye out to see how social media systems evolve

At the moment your organisation’s social media presence may be very low key and may focus on pushing out designated media releases to the community.

It is important, however, to keep a watching brief on your social media systems. These systems are very dynamic and how your organisation uses them can change quite rapidly. These changes can be driven by the community who might start to use your systems in different ways or they can be driven by staff who want to maximise the potential of social media.

If use of your social media systems start to change, you need to look at your current social media information management strategies and determine whether these also need to change.

Things to look out for include:

  • Are members of the community starting to ask specific questions about policy or services on social media?
  • Are you receiving compliments or complaints via social media?
  • Are staff members providing advice about new policies or programs via social media?

If these changes start occurring then your organisation’s information needs might change too. This is because you may now need the information from your social media system:

  • as input into policy or program development
  • as evidence of how a question or complaint was handled
  • to give to business areas as part of workflow processes
  • to enable effective client management.

As information in social media systems is not stable, if your business use of social media is changing, you may need to start to schedule regular exports of your social media transactions to ensure your organisation is able to access and use the business information it is receiving via social media.

Next section: How to determine what records need to be captured about your organisation’s social media business

social media strategy February 13th, 2013

this is one of the most comprehensive article on social media tools that could be effective in your marketing arsenal….thank you for the post!

Kate Cumming February 13th, 2013

Thanks! Kate

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