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Where Are Social Media Trends Taking Government Agencies?

Where Are Social Media Trends Taking Government Agencies?

Social media trends are adding pressure on government agencies to invest in more efficient and thorough ways to archive their social media activity. The following examples give a detailed look at what some of these trends and scenarios are and how government agencies are responding to them.

A Post Gone Viral

The police department of a small council with a population of about 10,500 people had a mess on their hands when one of the posts on their Facebook page went viral.

It all started when a few of the law enforcement officers visited a local restaurant. As the police officers were leaving, an employee of the restaurant told them they were not welcome and should not come back, and to spread the word that no police officers were welcome at their restaurant. The police officers spread the word by posting on the department’s Facebook page describing the incident.

To their surprise, the post went viral. Tens of thousands of people commented on the post, and it eventually became the top trending story on Facebook. There was a big problem, however: the post became a lightning rod for passionate disagreement on both sides of the argument. On one side people defended the police officers; on the other side, people defended the restaurant.

Eventually, the owner of the restaurant released a public statement clarifying that everyone is welcome at their restaurant, including police officers. The police department had met with the restaurant to help defuse the situation. However, even though the police department and restaurant had made amends, the public had not. Resentment against both sides remained as people continued to comment and debate on social media.

The police department did not have a social media archiving solution in place during this incident when they needed it most. It was a risky situation because the restaurant might have tried to sue the police department for posting about the incident on social media and damaging their business. The incident served as a major wake-up call to the police department.

If your government agency ever finds itself in a similar situation, you may be required to provide records of all relevant social media content and engagement. Without an advanced archival system that automatically sorts and retrieves information upon request, trying to provide the proper information to satisfy requests would quickly become extremely time-consuming and eventually unsustainable.

New Social Media Campaign

In social media, there are constant waves of new things: new platforms, new features to existing platforms, which means new opportunities and ways for government agencies to connect with the public. Or in some cases, government agencies haven’t fully taken advantage of existing platforms and their huge audiences, so the agency decides to expand their social media activities and launch new accounts and campaigns.

Group of business people working with technology. This is a montage which has a city scape overlaid. Social media, Brainstorming and teamwork concept.

The Tasmanian Water and Sewerage Corporation (TasWater) provides a perfect example. As they were reviewing the effectiveness of their social media habits, they began to notice some weaknesses. They only used a couple of platforms, Twitter and LinkedIn, and they used them sparingly or only when something was going wrong. For this reason, they began to notice a problematic trend: almost all their Twitter posts were announcements to the public of water outages. They realised this was casting a negative tone over their online presence.

It was time to change things up and expand.

They stopped focusing on negative events constantly and began posting positive content that engaged the community and encouraged interaction. They also created new accounts on Facebook and Instagram to reach more of the community in meaningful ways.

However, all the exciting new changes to their social media presented another problem. Their more positive tone and increased presence caused a large increase in community engagement with their social media accounts. The guidelines of the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (TAHO) required them to be 100 percent compliant with federal record keeping legislation. This meant archiving all activity on their social media accounts, organising it, and storing it so it could be quickly retrieved if necessary. With their expanding social media presence, they realised they might have taken on too much too soon. Fortunately, instead of trying to manually archive all social media content themselves, they discovered Brolly’s effective automated social media archiving solution that allowed them to do the following things:

  • Automatically capture all social media, including any edits and deletions made by visitors or by users
  • Organise all captured content automatically in a digital retrieval system that made it easy to find content
  • Automatically comply with all government requirements with archiving
  • Use the analysis capabilities of the archiving system to gauge how much engagement the agency is getting during a campaign

Ultimately, they were able to expand their social media presence online while also staying 100 percent compliant with archiving requirements.

Social Media Re-Purposed

In scholarly circles, especially archivists and librarians, social media has become a central topic of debate: should archivists use social media to share resources? A study done by OCLC Research* noted that, although archivists have mixed reactions to the use of social media, they value social media the most when their peers in the field are using it to share resources:

The perceived utility of user-contributed content [in social media] greatly increases if the researcher can effectively gauge the credibility and expertise of the source. Researchers favour the recommendations and commentary of archivists and librarians over other groups, apart from any additional understanding of the content contributor’s role and expertise.

While archivists and librarians don’t all agree about the value of social media, other fields of academics have not only embraced social media but re-purposed it.

In one such scenario, a group of researchers and archaeologists began to see the historical value of social media posts and comments. They realised when a significant archaeological event happens (i.e. an event that will be of interest to archaeologists in the far future), the community reaction to that event often happens on social media as people leave comments, posts, videos and other media elements in response to the event.

The researchers saw much of it, even the briefest comment made by a social media user, as gold nuggets for future historians and archaeologists. They did not like the idea that all social media is “throw-away.” All of it (or most of it) actually has great value for future scholarship and should be preserved.

In other words, today’s scholars are re-purposing social media to be a ledger for history–a book of records that tomorrow’s scholars can peruse and study at their leisure.

However, this would never be possible if the researchers could not find a way to systematically and easily archive all the social media content they felt was valuable. It would be impossible to do manually, especially if it deals with an event that has gone viral.

Although they looked at many layers to the problem, one essential conclusion reached in their research was this: an automated, highly organised social media archiving software solution would be paramount in making their social media re-purposing project a reality.

The Race to Keep Up

Social media trends and habits change each year, but one thing is certain: it takes an incredible amount of time and resources to keep up with the huge scope of archiving social media platforms operated by your government agency. Without advanced software, it can easily grow to become a burden impossible to maintain. As Australia’s first social media archiving tool, Brolly designs advanced archiving solutions with government compliance in mind. Connect with us to find out more.

*Washburn, Bruce, Ellen Eckert and Merrilee Proffitt. 2013. Social Media and Archives: A Survey of Archive Users. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research.http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/library/2013/2013-06.pdf.