Archiving Government Social Media

Communicating with Confidence: Enhanced Record-Keeping Boosts Hollywood’s Social Media Presence

Hollywood, Fla., is a quaint beach town between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, named one of the nation’s “Top Ten” weekend getaways by USA Today in 2014. Its 2.5 mile brick-paved Broadwalk along the Atlantic Ocean, tree-lined streets, and perfect weather make Hollywood a favorite of vacationers and location scouts alike.

But Hollywood isn’t all just fun and games. It has a serious business base, being home to Port Everglades — one of the largest passenger and cargo ports in the world — and is the 12th-largest city in Florida. Despite an expanding population and thriving commercial and corporate presence, the City of Hollywood’s social media presence prior to 2013 consisted largely of calendar events sent automatically via Twitter from the City’s website and videos produced in-house and posted on the YouTube channel. Concerns over public records management and reduced staffing from the recession meant limited resources and barriers to developing and growing social media engagement.

Hollywood’s City Manager, City Commissioners and the Director of Public Affairs knew expanding the City’s social media outreach could add to the City’s online presence, reduce barriers to access and provide another channel to engage with citizens. To help accomplish these goals, as they sought to hire a new Public Information Manager, they searched for an individual with experience in developing social media sites. In October 2013, Joann Hussey was hired with a focus on growing the City’s social media presence.

While Hussey tracked and saved her social media efforts manually — using her PC’s snipping tool to collect and save information in Word documents — compiling files was time consuming and the end product was not searchable or legally authenticated. Given that most states classify government social media as a public record subject to records requests, the City Attorney cautioned against expansion of the social media program until a more effective system was found to capture, store and retrieve these communications. Records requests, made possible by the State of Florida’s broad public records laws and the federal Freedom of Information Act, are a frequent occurrence in the Office of Public Affairs. Hussey says it’s only a matter of time before public records requests are submitted for the City’s social media content.

Tracking Traffic, Expanding Outreach
The Director of Public Affairs, Raelin Storey, learned about ArchiveSocial, an automated, cloud-based software service that preserves social media content in its native format, making it easy to search, view and understand the context. By continuously documenting the metadata within each piece of social media and assigning it a digital signature, the technology ensures compliance with state and federal records laws and confirms authenticity, should legal situations arise.

“We’re not going to rely on the social media companies to keep our communications forever,” Hussey says. “We’re permanently and easily capturing it for ourselves thanks to ArchiveSocial.” The department’s media standard operating procedure includes monthly downloads via the ArchiveSocial webpage. An Excel spreadsheet file and a PDF file which contain visual elements and screen captures are exported and saved to the City’s internal network.

“I love having both formats. With the PDF, you can see very quickly what pictures you’ve posted, and the Excel spreadsheet is great for seeing numbers and dates at a glance which I can insert easily into reports,” says Hussey. “I can see that I tweeted 350 times and who responded or retweeted it. It’s laid out in file format all in one spot. It’s much easier than hunting for information on Twitter and Facebook.” Hussey can also view the information in a dynamic format using the Web-based interface which allows her to expand comment threads and view high-resolution photos.

Aside from capturing records, ArchiveSocial helps Hussey monitor her output. She can see what’s been posted, gauge what’s successful or not, leverage users and maintain a cohesive message. “I know that soon, I will need to create a chart that shows our social media growth over time. I can use ArchiveSocial to find that information, demonstrate trends, show where we’ve been and how we’ve grown.”

ArchiveSocial now maintains records for Hollywood’s five social media accounts: Twitter accounts for the City and for the Police Department, a Facebook page, a LinkedIn page and a YouTube channel. Knowing that records are continually archived has given the City the peace of mind to increase the social media output via those channels.

Recently, a Hollywood Police Officer was photographed pushing a disabled vehicle out of Friday traffic into a safer spot. That photo went viral and was retweeted repeatedly over the weekend. Hussey was able to log into ArchiveSocial and export all the interactions into one file then share the good news with the Chief of Police, Police Command Staff and the City Manager. That information was also shared in the Police Department internal newsletter.

The City’s “Help Me Hollywood” website and mobile application permits residents and visitors to report non-emergency concerns to City Hall. The City’s “Notify Me” email notification service generates emergency alerts, news and announcements to citizens’ emails. Job opportunities with the City are posted on the website and on LinkedIn, while YouTube videos showcase a wide variety of City events. The public is responding to these useful community tools; the additional social media outlets are now making it a true two-way conversation.

Civic engagement and participation on the City’s social media networks has grown, and while traffic has increased, the City has saved staff time and effort thanks to ArchiveSocial’s automated operation. The City plans to train additional users to help boost the social media presence even further, and to possibly expand to other social media platforms.

Social Media Savvy Improves Communication with Residents
When done well, the investment in social media can help to build trust and goodwill between residents and City government, support priorities and help in the distribution of information.

Social media networks and practices are constantly evolving, and traditional methods of record-keeping aren’t necessarily effective in the fluid, digital interactivity of social media. Agencies must also take into account the legal requirements of records retention just as much as the message itself. An effective way to achieve both is to harness automated technology, thereby removing the elements of human time and error.

The City of Hollywood’s social media expansion is another important communication tool to talk directly with residents where they are, and via the method and device they prefer, including mobile. The expansion also has an advantage that is less tangible, but valuable: “It’s giving the City a different perspective in the eye of the resident. It’s showing them that we’re on top of issues and technology, and are available 24/7. If you have a concern, you’ll be able to reach somebody via social media,” Hussey says. “People want to be heard, and they’re using these outlets every hour of the day to reach us. It serves almost as an advocacy tool for people who want answers, and we’re there for them.”

She adds, “I’m glad ArchiveSocial is there grabbing everything we’re posting and retaining it. Now, when those records requests come in, we’ll be ready.”

ENDNOTES
1. www.govtech.com/internet/Industry-Perspective-Social-Media-is- Serious-Business-for-Government.html
2. www.govtech.com/internet/Dashboard-Shows-State-of-Californias- Huge-Social-Media-Footprint.html

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