Archiving social media

Does it really matter what you said on Twitter last week?

Archiving may not be the most exciting subject in the world, but as organisations increasingly use social media to communicate with consumers there is an ever growing need to archive their social media conversations.

Why archive?

There are four excellent reasons for archiving social media content.

Litigation

Litigation is an ever present problem for organisations. This can be staff bringing cases for unfair dismissal or discrimination. Or it can be consumers bringing cases relating to unfair contracts or products and services that don’t deliver as promised.

Compliance

Archiving of marketing communications can be a compliance requirement for certain industries such as financial services; although there are some record-keeping requirements imposed on all companies.

Business operations

It can be important to archive records so that negotiations and transactions can be continued in the event of systems failure. In addition, an easily accessible record of social media can in some circumstances make it easier for employees to work efficiently (e.g. finding an important email or chat record easily).

Knowledge management

A good archive can be used to generate learning and case studies.

How much to archive?

Ideally you would archive everything in social media that relates to your organisation. But this may simply not be feasible. For instance, if people get customised views of social media it is obviously impossible to archive these. This is also true of websites that are delivered “on the fly” where one may be confined to recording for instance the different experience of a logged in and a logged out visitor.

Two questions need to be asked:

  • What is it reasonable to invest in archiving (given the size and nature of your organisation)
  • What is it important to keep (not all social media data is equally important)

There are no hard and fast rules here, except that more is likely to be safer than less. But bebar in ind that how uch you archive is likely to affect how much you pay.

How to build an archive

There are some fundamental requirements of social media archiving systems:

Capture

You need to capture both “static” content that is not changed on a regular basis (such as a Twitter profile) and “interactive” content which delivers a stream of data from the organisation and consumers or other stakeholders.

With interactive content, there is generally a good deal of important contextual information that goes beyond the simple text of a post and this need capturing. This can include:

  • Actions such as “Likes” and Shares
  • Views and subscriptions to content streams
  • Phototags and hashtags
  • Page URL
  • Links
  • The nature of the conversation, in particular whether it is a public exchange or a private (e.g. Direct Message) exchange

Another important consideration for archiving is whether deleted posts can be recorded. When data collection happens on an occasional basis, for instance every day, posts that are deleted may well be lost to the archive. One solution is to record data directly via the platforms API rather than from the web.

Storing

There are a number of storage requirements for any archiving system and these include:

  • Data and information security: archives should be secure so that only authorised people can access them
  • Resilience: the will always be a need to have one or more back ups of the archive so that data can be retrieved in the event of system failure
  • Access logs: A record of who has used an archive is an important management tool – as anyone who watches “whodunits” on TV knows
  • Integrity: It is important to prevent modification or deletion of content within the archive which means that data should be stored as “read only”

Searching and retrieving

In most circumstances social media records should be searchable at least by the following:

  • Platform (e.g. Twitter) and type (e.g. re-tweets, direct messages)
  • Author
  • Date and time
  • Content “strings” (i.e. keywords and key phrases)
  • Metadata (e.g. tags on Facebook pictures)

Once data has been found then it needs to be exportable easily and in a sortable format e.g. XML.

Choosing the right tool

There are dozens of archiving tools available. Some are free, other range from low prices that an SME will find attractive to “enterprise level” expense.

And the functionality offered offers widely too, with some tools very much simple back up tools while others are more truly information management tools.

As a result choosing the right tool isn’t simple. Ideally, your requirements will be agreed by a multi-functional team composing of IT, archiving, compliance, workflow, website and social media experts. But if you are uncertain that you have the right knowledge in house, then Mosoco will be very happy to help.

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