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Social Media

Many local governments and state agencies use social media like networking sites, blogs, and video or photo sharing services to communicate with citizens and gather their feedback. Although such resources can be valuable outreach tools and allow governments to connect with readers in a less formal way, state agencies and local governments should be aware of potential risks and obligations related to their use.

Image. Man working at computer

Content Creation

Although postings to social media may be phrased in a fun, approachable manner, they are still messages distributed by a government entity and should meet the same standards for accuracy, appropriateness, and compliance with local government or state agency obligations as content shared through other means. This can be especially challenging on sites where readers outside of the posting government may leave comments.

When creating social media accounts, governments should decide

  • who will have permission to post on behalf of the state agency or local government,
  • whether new content will be created for the sites, or if they be used to distribute information that exists elsewhere,
  • which policies and procedures must be followed when creating or selecting content, and
  • by whom and how frequently reader comments will be monitored and those violating the terms for appropriate use removed.

Record Types on Social Media

Postings on government social media accounts may be records that must be retained for the full length of the related retention period. While there are not specific retention and disposition schedules for social media records, content shared by local government or state agency social media accounts may fall under existing series, including those covering:

  • press releases
  • meeting recordings or minutes
  • annual reports
  • staff directories

Citizen comments may also be records; most are likely covered by retention requirements for information or service requests.

Before deciding how to retain information posted to social media, governments should decide whether the version posted online is the official copy. If copies posted to the agency website or stored in the office, in offsite storage, or electronically are being retained as required by the relevant retention schedules, then the versions posted to social media may not need to be kept.

Retaining Copies of Social Media Records

Each social media resource has its own procedure for withdrawing copies of posted content. When creating a social media account, governments should closely review the site’s “terms of service” agreement to verify:

  • who owns and has access to the information posted,
  • where the information is stored, and
  • the procedures for retrieving information posted to the site and the format in which that information will be received.

Local governments and state agencies should determine whether a site’s terms are acceptable before creating an account. They should also decide how often content should be downloaded, what tools are needed to capture complete and usable copies, and how record copies will be stored.