Social Media Content as Records: 2 recent documents from NARA

Piggy-backing off Meg’s post from a couple weeks ago (read it! You won’t be sorry!), a brief discussion of social media as records may be of use. A recent discussion on the always useful Recmgmt-L list pointed to two documents from NARA on social media as records. Both take the form of practical guidance(!), always welcome in the LIS world, particularly when it comes to electronic records or digital preservation.

The first is NARA Bulletin 2014-02 (October 2013), which serves as a springboard for a major concern I have with some discussion of social media and the archives. Much of the conversation, at least in the archives world, starts from a place where an institution has already decided that output on social media is something worthy of longterm (if not permanent) retention. And while that may be the right choice for one institution, larger institutions may end up with a lot content that is merely recycling content better suited for capture in a different format. Bulletin 2014-02 does not start with this assumption: “Some social media records may be temporary; with a transitory, short, or long term retention. Some may even be permanent…” By applying traditional records management concepts to the social media output and outlining the challenges to records management posed by social media the bulletin insists that agencies confront Twitter, Facebook, and the like instead of adopting a blanket capture (or worse, blanket ignore) strategy.

The second is NARA’s White Paper on Best Practices for the Capture of Social Media Records (May 2013). A longer document, I found part IV (p. 9) most useful. A sidebar lists a few general methods employed by federal agencies for social media capture, but what follows is a table comparing 59 different tools (open source, commercial, and otherwise) for the capture of various social media networks. Of the tools listed, I have experience (tangential in some cases) with three:

  • ArchiveSocial – which accesses the API provided by the network and harvests the raw output. The result is then parsed and rendered by their software. This was demo’d to the institution where I interned as a student. I remember being impressed, although the cost was not something we could handle at the time.
  • Archive-It – I have had some difficulty successfully capturing Facebook content with the service, apart from public pages. The snapshots are useful to a point, but the dynamic nature of social media sites makes them even more a moving target than static sites. That said, the service has been tweaking their social media functionality for some time, and its comprehensiveness makes it appealing regardless.
  • ThinkUp – the institution I have recently joined is pursuing this tool. I have not yet had much time to play around with it

What strategies do your organizations take in approaching social media as records? Does anyone from a non-government agency go so far as to schedule social media records?


One thought on “Social Media Content as Records: 2 recent documents from NARA

  1. Pingback: Two Case Studies of Web Archiving for Records Management | The Schedule

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