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The anatomy of a social media record

The anatomy of a social media record

There’s more to a social media record than meets the eye. And when it comes to archiving, it’s the invisible that can be the most important. 

When we glance at a social media feed, we might see text, images, links, videos, comments.

From a record-keeping perspective, each of these visible elements is significant. And you can see them, search for them and take action on them from within your social media account. For example in Facebook you can read, respond, edit, delete, unpublish, hide, share … and if you’re in a social media team for any type of organisation, that’s a large part of your day.

But is that the full picture?

What makes a record?

Every record has a few recognisable characteristics, all of which need to be archived with the record so it’s compliant with current archiving legislation: 

Account: The account that published a post or comment. You’ll know them by a @username or ‘handle’. The account information answers the question ‘Who’.

Activity, action and time: Information about what happened, and when.  For example @username published a post or @username edited a post, or hid a comment.

Post and link: The text and a link to an external site that make up most social media posts.

Media: Images and videos as the most commonly used types of media in social media posts. Audio is sometimes used as well.

Analytics: Likes, shares and other forms of engagement are tracked as the record’s individual statistics.

Metadata: Feedback, questions and remarks that may be added to the post by the author or someone else. Comments can be added any time after the post is published. Most happen quite soon, but they can be added at any time, as long as the original post is still live and publicly available.

The crucial elements you may not see from within your social media feed

Every post has metadata and context. These are important but mostly invisible parts of a record that provide concrete ways to identify its relevance. For example, metadata and context are critically important if a post needs to be used in evidence as part of legal proceedings, or in response to a Freedom of Information request. 

Metadata is often complex, made up of long strings of numbers and characters – and not really written for humans. Metadata sits in the background of the record and provides key information about when and by whom the record was created, published and edited and more. When archiving with a purpose-built tool like Brolly, the metadata is captured so it’s there when you need it.

Context relates to the connected nature of social media. A comment on a post could lose all its relevance unless you can see it in the context of the full conversation. An orphaned comment can be misinterpreted or meaningless. Context also relates to changes that might have happened in the life of a record. If your original post links to a website or web page that is no longer available, then unless you captured that page at the time you published the post, you’ve lost that context too. 

In summary

There’s more to social media archiving than you might think. If you’re in government or a regulated industry, the law is very clear about your obligation to capture and archive any type of record, and social media archiving is part of that. Social media archives have special attributes such as metadata and the fact that they remain publicly available long after they are first published. Make sure your archives are compliant by using the right tool to capture, store and manage them. Brolly has your connections covered. 

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