So your agency has decided that a social media archiving tool is worth the investment. Great! Where do you start? Not all archiving solutions are created equal, so it’s important that you do your research and due diligence when choosing the best solution for your agency. Some archiving solutions may start as a good plan, but end up taking valuable hours to maintain and upkeep. Others may look like viable social media archiving tools upfront, but leave gaps in your record retention plan by not capturing every record or containing serious security risks. When shopping for the best archiving tool, it is important to keep two major things in mind: efficiency of use and comprehensiveness of records saved. And if you’re just trying to get an idea of what an archive should look like, you can check out a sample of your archive at any time for free.​

Finding Efficiency in Social Media Archiving Tools

Have you ever downloaded software only to delete it only a few minutes later because you realized it doesn’t work like you wanted? That can be frustrating when you paid for the software yourself. However, it can have larger repercussions if taxpayer money paid for the software. It’s important to examine exactly what you are looking for in a social media archiving solution. The most basic starting point? It needs to work well and do its job.

Round-the-Clock Data Capture

Do you know the most popular way public agencies are currently saving their social media records? Screenshots. While your creepy ex seems to have saved every awkward post you ever made, for most agencies, capturing every post, every comment, and every thread before it’s deleted or hidden is an impossible task. A feat that a massive team monitoring your social media 24/7 couldn’t even achieve.

A large team dedicated to monitoring, taking screenshots, and documenting your social media activity still couldn’t capture critical metadata the way that a social media archiving tool can. This metadata, which includes info on when the post was published, who wrote it, if it was edited, and more, is what authenticates a social media record and makes it valid.

Searching for Records in the Archive

After the records are archived comes the fun task of actually locating certain posts or comments if a social media records request is made. Archiving software should make it easy to search the archive and export your records. It shouldn’t be another hassle. As the ad goes, they’re your records, get them when you need them!

Your archive should also be stored in a secure environment. The social media records in your archive need to be maintained and backed up with secure, powerful, and scalable servers; it’s a good sign if your archiving tool partners with a reputable cloud storage provider. This ensures that records won’t be lost or comprised, and can be quickly and easily accessed by the right people in your organization.

So when you are examining the efficiency of social media archiving tools, consider asking the following questions:

  1. How can I search my archive?
  2. Is there an alert system I can use?
  3. What formats can I use when exporting?
  4. How can you ensure record authenticity?
  5. Are my records secure yet easily accessible for the right people?

Lastly, ask “who do I call if I need help”? Because when you are dealing with public records, you want to make sure you have all the resources you need and a team on your side who can jump in and help. The best archiving tools should have support documentation and teams in place to help you when the time comes to produce records from your archive.

An Archiving Solution Needs to Be Comprehensive & Do its Job

The most important feature for social media archiving tools is doing exactly what it claims; actually archiving every post and comment. This also includes deleted comments.

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The exact retention laws and guidelines for government agencies and school districts can differ from state to state. Healthcare organizations have regulatory guidelines from HIPAA and other various legal concerns that depend on whether they are public or private.

There is one common thread: posts and comments on social media can qualify as public records. The tool you use should reliably save both – and in their true format. Some archiving tools on the market will harvest data from the social media site instead of using an API to actually connect to the site. This is just a technical way of saying that they only get the posts and comments in secondary form and they miss all the metadata code behind it – such as the time and date of the post. Which, can lead to problems if you ever need to prove the authenticity of the record. According to media law attorney Mark R. Weaver, who often defends government agencies in public records cases, “the metadata captured by the ArchiveSocial software would make my job in court a lot easier.” Due to practices like image manipulation and falsifying records, the metadata captured by a social media archiving system is the best way to prove the legitimacy of a social media record.

So when you are examining the comprehensiveness of your archiving options, consider asking these questions:

  1. Does your software capture metadata?
  2. How quickly does the software pick up changes to your post?
  3. Can your archiving tool capture historical data, so you don’t have to worry about posts and comments before buying the product?
  4. Is there a way to sample or try out the archiving software before buying?

The Bottomline

Whether your organization represents a small community, local utility, or a huge city, retaining your social media records protects your agency, your social media manager(s), and your community members. So when examining your options for the best social media archiving tool, make sure to ask questions and put the system to the test before signing a service contract. Getting answers to these questions will ensure your agency is covered in an event of a FOIA or public records request. Want to see what an ArchiveSocial archive would look like for your organization? Get a sample of your archive here.