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Social media retention and disposal

Social media retention and disposal

How long should you be keeping your archived social media records? In what context is it okay to destroy them? And what about the original record, which lives on after you’ve destroyed an archived version? At Brolly we’ve been asking those questions too.

Deciding which records to keep or destroy is an important part of the work that records and information managers do.

Retention and disposal authorities (RDAs) guide those decisions. An RDA specifies what kinds of records to archive, in what format and for how long. The criteria are generally developed based on risk analysis on different topics and communication methods.

For example, a list of records that come under an RDA might include emergency warnings, complaints, feedback, policy or a number of other types of information or communication.

RDAs are a requirement for local, state and national government agencies. Educational institutions, health providers, banks, insurers and other service providers in regulated industries also have RDAs.

Digital-born could mean ‘it’s complicated’

Perhaps your team uses Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter to stay in touch with your customers, constituents or community. These conversations are digital-born, long-lasting and contextually complex.

As we said above, an RDA determines the types of records that your organisation needs to capture and archive.

If social media conversations create records types identified in your RDA, they need to be archived.

Social media is dynamic. The content is ever-changing and government information may be taken up by others for use and reuse. It is important that your agency keeps an accurate and authentic ‘original’ copy of business information posted on social media and captures it in your records management system or other endorsed business system. National Archives of Australia website.

The ‘problem’ with social media for records managers is that social media is not static.<

Here’s an example. Imagine that three years ago a shire council was deciding about removing a piece of important infrastructure – a bridge or a building, or a road. At the time, the matter was not resolved. Everybody moved on. The posts about the incident remain alive on Facebook. However they are from so long ago, nobody ever sees them because they are so far down the feed, it takes too long to scroll to them.

Imagine that same infrastructure matter starts being discussed again. Interested citizens who remember the past conversations start searching for them on Facebook, find them and post new comments. It only takes a little motivation. A few comments, a share, and one or more records from the past that have sprung back into life.

For records being archived by Brolly in real time, any new actions on an existing record are captured. No problem. Brolly collects records, actions, metadata and context. If a comment is posted today on a post that was published years ago, Brolly retains the context by capturing the full conversation.

What we mean when we talk about records*

Occasionally we receive questions from customers about retention and deletion of archives from Brolly. The questions usually fall into two main categories. They are exactly the kinds of questions that records managers ask when setting up effective RDAs.

Question: How long are records kept in Brolly?

From the moment your social media accounts are connected, Brolly captures and archives records to keep you compliant. It’s an ongoing process.

As long as a record exists on your connected social media platform, it is being captured in real time in Brolly. If you delete a record from a connected social media account, Brolly captures the deletion action too. This is important information that needs to be captured.

Question: Can we change the retention period for records in Brolly?

The answer to this one is a little more complicated.

Based on conversations we’ve had with stakeholders, there is more than one possible way to approach retention and disposal for social media. Each option views social media records differently. Two options are presented below in no particular order. The discussion is by no means over. We expect to be having these conversations for quite some time.<

Option 1.

The RDA

  • treats social media posts, messages, comments, images, videos and links as the records
  • Considers the archive as a true copy taken at a point in time.

Considerations:If the original social media records fall under the RDA then the records management team and the social media team would need to collaborate about retention and deletion. These might be conversations your organisation has never had before, so you’ll need to remember that both teams have very different views on the purpose of social media.

Questions might arise including whether deletion of posts might have an impact on brand or reputation. If there is a large volume of social media records identified for deletion, is the task even possible?

Option 2.

The RDA

  • treats the archives of your social media accounts as the records
  • ignores the live records.

Considerations: This is what many organisations are currently doing. It raises quite a few questions, such as:

  • whether an archive of a social media record is considered a copy, or a record.
  • where the retention or disposal decision should be applied. On the archive? A file exported from the archive, or on the social media account where the records exist? 

The decision to destroy records under NAP [normal administrative practice] is the responsibility of the government agency.

The following factors should be considered:

  • is there any further administrative need to retain the record
  • are others still using the record?
  • if you believe it’s just a copy, are you sure that an authoritative version has been kept?

The agency is responsible for ensuring that all staff understand NAP and can apply it correctly in their day-to-day work, for instance, in the management of email records.
Public Records Office Victoria 

How Brolly social media archiving works

To be comprehensive, a social media archiving tool must capture what happens to a social media record during its life.

When you connect a social media account to Brolly, it captures posts and messages as they are published, and then any changes to them, as they happen. Capture includes static and dynamic attributes of records

  • images and videos
  • link targets
  • edits, hides, unhides, deletes
  • interactions such as comments
  • metadata and context.

In the world of social media, the changes to existing records are as important as the publication of new records. And as long as a post or comment is live, it can be changed. This means that as long as it is live, it also needs to be archived, ongoing, in real time.

As you develop your RDA and figure out how your organisation will approach these tricky questions, you can rest assured that Brolly’s archiving will reflect what’s really happening in your social media accounts.

Share your thoughts

How is your organisation handling RDAs when it comes to social media? Would you be interested in attending a webinar or workshop on this topic?  Let us know at hello@brolly.com.au

* Apologies to Raymond Carver