One Agency to Another: Selecting the Most Compliant and Cost-Effective Social Media Archiving Solution
The City of Kissimmee, Florida, is a popular destination for tourists due to its proximity to major theme parks like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld. However, one of the City’s core messages is that it’s not only a great place to visit, but a better place to call home. Kissimmee showcases this belief through its growing social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
According to Austin Blake, Administrative Services Manager for Kissimmee, social media is a primary channel for engaging with citizens and building relationships. “We talk about the things we’re doing, how the community can get involved, and how we’re making their lives better through different projects.”
To protect the City in its growing use of social media, Blake determined it was vital to take steps to ensure compliance with Florida’s Sunshine Law for public records.
“There were already Attorney General opinions and court-specific cases, so we knew we had to do something,” Blake explains. “When we look at social media, there’s the potential that we are creating content that might not be in any other place in the city.”
Blake knew that Kissimmee would need to implement a third-party social media archiving tool. Despite the availability of other vendors, including less expensive options, Kissimmee ultimately decided that purchasing ArchiveSocial would be the most effective use of taxpayer funds in terms of protecting the City and ensuring compliance with Florida’s requirements.
Based on his experiences at the City of Kissimmee, Blake offers the following advice to other agencies that are similarly evaluating social media archiving products for the purposes of legal protection and public records compliance.
1. Recognize that Different Archiving Products Provide Different Levels of Compliance
A key realization for the City was that archiving products vary in the manner that they capture content from social networks and keep up with changes.
“Social media platforms are always putting out new services or features, so make sure the product is capable of keeping up with that change,” Blake advises. In other words, a product that supports Facebook archiving might do a better job of keeping up with the changes on Facebook than a competing product, thereby providing a higher level of compliance. Blake highlights the handling of live-streamed video such as Facebook Live as one example that influenced Kissimmee’s decision.
“Ensure that the archiving solution actually records that video and it’s easily accessible within the dashboard so you can quickly get to it,” he says.
There are several other factors that influence the level to which an archiving product ensures compliance for an agency. Blake points to the fact that communications can be deleted at any time by either government staff or a citizen as a crucial concern.
“Our view of compliance is that, as soon as something happens, we need the ability to capture it,” says Blake. “The timeframe in which any archiving solution is able capture that data is important.”
Another factor to consider is how easily you can access and reproduce social media records from the archive. Some companies may provide assurances that data is being captured, but require that you contact customer support to access the information.
Blake advises caution in such a scenario. “If we had to request to see it, it would make me question if the data was available until a copy was actually produced to us.”
2. Remember That the ‘Cheapest’ Solution is Not Always the Most Cost-Effective
Government agencies inevitably face budget constraints. However, when it comes to social media archiving, cheaper is not always better. A cheaper solution that appears to be equivalent on the surface may cost less upfront because it’s cutting corners on your compliance. Some archiving products bundle social media with web or email archiving, and treat social media as a secondary concern. It’s important to not lose sight of the real cost to your agency and taxpayers.
“As a government employee, I think it’s first important that we’re responsible with the taxpayers’ money. But being responsible with the taxpayers’ money doesn’t always mean that you purchase the cheapest solution,” says Blake. “Being responsible with taxpayers’ money for us means that we’ve done our due diligence, we are buying a product that does what it is supposed to do to allow us to maintain compliance with Florida law, and also potentially has less overhead in the long run.”
Government procurement processes are designed to strictly focus on cost, but Blake is quick to point out that it is dangerous for agencies to forget to vet the products themselves. “In a lot of cases, we are required to get three quotes. We don’t just take the quote from the person that says ‘trust me, I can do it cheaper,’” explains Blake. “We have to do our due diligence to make sure that they are truly able to produce the same quality of product. We may find that a company is not actually able to fulfill the requirements.”
3. Trust in Other Agencies’ Experiences
The Internet is a powerful tool for exploring what solutions are available, but in government, it is helpful to go beyond what a company says on its product website. It’s crucial to get the full picture by seeking out reviews and talking with other government agencies.
“Look for public forums or other communities. In Florida, there’s the Florida City Clerks Association and IT communities for municipalities that all have opinions,” says Blake. “You’re able to reach out through your colleagues and their organizations to see what they use, and what their past experiences have been.”
Given the constantly evolving nature of social media and the varying capabilities of each archiving product, another agency could have discovered something over time that was not apparent during the initial purchasing process.
“There’s no point, in my mind, to reinvent the wheel. If another organization has already been through a situation, then we should absolutely rely on them and their experience to help guide us in making that decision. We don’t want to just go out there and shop in the blind,” adds Blake. “You may have cases in which everything was good in the beginning, but it’s not so good in the end.”
4. Perform a Side-by-Side Test Drive, if Necessary
Through the advice in this paper, you will hopefully come to a clear decision on which archiving product to purchase. However, it’s possible that another vendor may be willing to aggressively discount, and your procurement department could end up preferring the other choice based on cost alone. In that case, it’s critical that you convince your agency
to test drive the two products to validate if the lower cost option is equivalent, or if it will put your agency at risk.
Sales representatives are trained to highlight a product’s advantages and avoid providing any hint of its deficiencies. These can be easily masked during a product demo. The only way to perform a complete and accurate comparison is to go beyond the sales demonstrations and perform a side-by-side trial of the two options.
Blake’s insistence on setting up a trial was fundamental to Kissimmee’s decision to look past the cheapest option. “Ultimately for me, my recommendation to select ArchiveSocial was based off the fact that when we test drove the product, it was able to fulfill everything that it claimed it could do. We could easily access all our content in a very neat and clean manner. And it was pretty user friendly.”
The customer support that Kissimmee received during its trial also helped solidify Blake’s decision to purchase ArchiveSocial. “The customer service was fantastic. I would say they seemed to bend over backwards. At this point, I don’t have anything that I don’t like about ArchiveSocial.”
The End Game: A Fully Protected Agency
Evaluating social media archiving products can seem like a daunting task, but there is no better payoff than ensuring that your agency is fully protected and is prioritizing the long-term cost savings to your taxpayers. Following the advice of agencies like Kissimmee can also simplify and expedite the process for your agency. After all, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel.