Whether you blog, tweet, snap or cast, failure to properly archive outgoing content may come back to haunt your business.
About four out of five Australian enterprises are using social media for business purposes, but a far smaller fraction are properly archiving the contents of what they blog, tweet, snap or cast.
Those archiving properly are likely to be from public service agencies, as all information and records they create or receive, regardless of format, are subject to the Archives Act 1983.
There’s no parallel compulsion for private enterprise, but failure to keep records of social media activity could create potential legal and business risks, with the critical consideration that key business information is being hosted, so in effect owned, by a third-party social media provider.
Third-party providers “are not going to keep your data for as long as you have need for it”, says Kate Cumming, a senior project officer in record-keeping with the NSW State Records Authority.
“When your data is gone from these applications, it is gone. Therefore, active plans have to be made to export data from these external platforms and bring it into corporate systems.”
In June, social media site MySpace deleted most of its decade’s accumulation of user content without consulting those users when it relaunched its site design and capacity.
Tens of thousands of users vented their fury online, describing the mass deletion of personal data without warning as “stupefying”, showing “absolute disregard”, complete ignorance of basic business principles and an astounding lack of common sense” and “digital genocide”.
Many social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, have an archiving facility embedded in their account options. Instagram, an increasingly popular business tool, does not have an in-built archiving facility, but images can be downloaded through a secondary site, Instaport.
In-house archiving takes time and some technical ability, so several automated archiving sites have sprung up, offering cloud-based capture of social media content using data encryption and digital signatures to ensure records are stored securely and in a retrievable format – for a fee.
The National Archives of Australia has free advice on how to manage social media records, published online at www.naa.gov.au/records-management/agency/digital/socialmedia
It is written for government agencies, but has broader application for private enterprise.
The NAA says records created as a result of using social media are subject to the same requirements as records created by other means. This includes tweets about news and events in agencies, status updates on an agency’s Facebook page, and comments on forums or on blog posts about agency activities, as these all constitute evidence of government business activities.
As such, agencies are obliged to ensure accurate and sufficient records of business activities are created and kept in a useable and accessible form for as long as they are required to support business needs, to ensure accountability for actions and decisions and to protect citizens’ rights.
How to Socialise:
The NAA offers these practical tips for successful social media archiving and management:
• Use the same principles for managing social media content as for other records and information;
• Manage social media content as part of the overall information governance framework;
• Develop a policy and protocols on the use of social media;
• Call upon the expertise of records and information management staff in the development of the policy;
• Do a risk assessment of the need to capture social media content in the records system, including considering the value of different content to the business;
• Dispose of spam immediately, but keep more valuable social media records such as feedback about policy or complaints.
Ainsleigh Sheridan is a Journalist for Management Today Magazine (mtmag.com.au) AIM’s national magazine for members.