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The Challenge of Documenting Social Media Activity

It’s human nature to try to record life despite its inevitable transience. This innate desire becomes ever more apparent with the connection (or disconnection?) between social media and records management.

Many enjoyed the ephemeral nature of Twitter and Facebook, and this non-permanence was one of the biggest drivers for their use. However, for companies and agencies trying to track past activity, social media has proved to be a tricky format to work with. In the past, agencies tried using Word documents or PDF files made up of screenshots and other static information to record the information. This proved cumbersome and ultimately ineffective.

With the recent requirement to keep detailed records as part of the federal transparency effort, agencies are faced with a more pressure to find a better way to record the constantly updated content on their social media.

The North Carolina Archives has seemed to find a way to document the activities of various agencies in the state on social media sites. The State of North Carolina Social Media Archive is home to more that 100,000 social media records. The content on the sites is continually captured and stored in a way that is truer to its original format.

“For the first time ever, we can capture the full context of social media as it happens, and make the records almost instantly available to the general public,” said Kelly Eubank, Head of Electronic Records for the North Carolina State Archives in a press release. Patrons can search Twitter interactions and expand Facebook comments, as well as see full-sized photos, all in a format that allows the records to be used as legal evidence if the need arises. This is all done in partnership with ArchiveSocial, a company that provides software that captures the information and stores it in the cloud. “Every level of government is currently struggling with record retention of social media,” says Anil Chawla, CEO of ArchiveSocial, “but this archive clearly demonstrates what is possible.”

It is a great step forward in the world of archiving digitally born records. But this also broaches the many issues of creating digital identities and records. How influential is an agencies digital profile? How much do online interactions reflect real-world interactions between an agency and its constituents? These are questions that need to be asked while also searching a successful way to document social media activity so it can be recorded in a format that aids future research.

Has your agency found a way to manage digital records?

What are the biggest challenges in implementing a records management program?

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