Foundations of a Sound Social Media Retention Strategy for Federal Agencies

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A lack of a clear social media strategy also leads to key bits of information getting lost.

Federal agencies are increasingly relying on social media to disseminate information to the public, but also to better hear and understand the needs of citizens they’re serving. While social media is a valuable channel for two-way communication, there’s plenty of room for regulatory non-compliance on the part of public servants in federal agencies.

The law mandates that all business records need to be preserved in an unalterable form for a specified period of time, which in some cases can last for a couple of years. Over time, these business records have evolved and now encompass information such as social media posts, comments, emojis, gifs, video, and other emerging file formats.

This means that federal agencies also need to retain any communication that goes on through its official social media channels. However, they also need to pay attention and preserve any communication by their employees in their professional capacity, whether when corresponding to the public or when communicating with their peers inside the agency.

By ensuring they work in line with records management regulations, do federal agencies go too far in monitoring communication channels? Do they sacrifice their own employees' privacy and how can this be avoided while staying on the side of compliance?

While a short answer to this question might be "no," as the compliance requirements simply dictate that we store and preserve all and any communication that goes on inside our federal agency, compliance teams should consider several aspects in order to ensure a sound social media archiving strategy, while keeping their employees informed and aware of their responsibilities. And it all starts with clear expectations.

A Clear Social Media Retention Strategy Is the Key

The first prerequisite for any tech solution to be successfully implemented throughout a federal agency is to clearly communicate expectations and requirements that employees need to follow. In most cases, it’s compliance teams that take care of defining a communication strategy.

When it comes to preserving social media communication, federal agencies should define exactly which tools can be used at work, channels where business cases may and may not be discussed, responsibilities at team and individual levels, what can be communicated to the public and through which means.

Without a clearly defined etiquette of how social media can be used, agencies risk employees moving business-related communication to private channels, potentially exposing confidential information, as well as your agency’s reputation. A lack of a clear social media strategy also leads to key bits of information getting lost, that otherwise could have been used in litigation cases.

Social Media Management Needs to Be Forward-Thinking

The other step is for agencies to think in terms of ever-expanding social media. Only a couple of years ago, social media comments, in their textual forms, were not considered parts of business records. Today, not only are they considered business records, but they need to be preserved, along with metadata in tamper-proof format. 

Same goes for instant messaging chats, video calls, attachments, and emojis. They have gone from a past-time activity to an official business record. 

To that end, federal agencies should be thinking about what’s to come and prepare to capture and preserve that information as well. But it has to start with understanding their needs, educating their employees, and finding the right tools. In this particular order.

Stefan‌ ‌Vucicevic‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌tech‌ ‌writer‌ ‌for‌ ‌‌Jatheon‌ ‌Technologies‌.

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