Recordkeeping and archiving social media
What information you need to retain, record or dispose of.
About state records
NSW Government-run social media channels create state records every day, including:
- analytics generated by the platform (like Facebook and Twitter)
- analytics, case notes and responses from social media management platforms (like Hootsuite and Sprout Social).
If you have questions about recordkeeping and archiving social media, contact email@example.com for advice.
Which records to keep
There are different requirements for keeping records, depending on which of the criteria they meet. For example, the following records should be kept using a records management tool for a set period of time:
- Rural Fire Service posts that communicate during a bushfire (25 years)
- ministerial social media activity (during a Minister’s term of office)
- replies to comments that involve complex answers (retention period varies)
- any posts that have to be deleted, the reason for them being deleted and the policies or procedures that support comment/post deletion (retention period varies).
Some records are adequately kept on the social media platform they’ve been published to and don’t need to be saved to a records management tool, for example:
- marketing and promotional posts
- customer service interactions
- general inquiries from customers and responses
- community consultations, where a report is generated summarising the results.
Records generated using social media platforms may be covered by retention and disposal authorities issued by NSW State Archives and Records. These authorities define how long social media records need to be retained.
Archiving social media records
Six criteria for archiving social media
You will need to archive your social media records if they meet any of the following criteria:
- are high risk, commercial or highly valuable to the NSW Government
- communicate decisions, give advice or commit to an action or outcome
- are about sensitive or contentious issues
- generate great interest from the public or media
- contain information not communicated anywhere else
- have a long-term retention period or are identified as state archives (a state record that the State Archives and Records Authority has control of). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the NSW State Archives and Records website to find out if yours fall into this category.
Social media posts and associated comments that fit any of these 6 criteria should be open by default (available publicly) for at least 2 years after publishing.
To find out whether any records management requirements apply to your agency, please check with your internal records team.
In some instances, you may need to use a third-party platform to archive social media records. This is because native social media platforms usually provide limited access to data and customer records. It may also reduce the risk of data loss if the social media platform encounters a security breach or ceases to exist. Third-party social media archiving tools allow users to access consolidated data from across your platforms with user-friendly interfaces. Some social media management tools provide this service, so make sure you find out what you already have access to before investing in a new platform.
If you’re using an archiving tool, please destroy stored information after the necessary retention period. There is no single retention period for social media records, as this depends on the purpose, content, or result of the communication. For more information visit the NSW State Archives and Records website
Storing personal information
Collecting social media records may count as ‘storing personal information’. For example, a user’s display name and profile picture may be stored when a social media report is created. It’s important your agency outlines your obligations and how you will comply with them when obtaining personal information in the relevant privacy collection statement (e.g. on your agency’s website).
Personal information may in some circumstances also be disclosed to third parties if a request is made under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (the GIPA Act).
Speak to your privacy team to understand your obligations in regard to collecting, using, storing and disclosing personal information and what you need to do in order to comply.
Saving social media posts
You may not need to use an archiving tool to store social media records.
You can record using:
- platforms that have longevity as well content that remains static and doesn’t disappear — simply posting to the platform and downloading archives from the platform might be sufficient archiving
- scheduling software or tools that keep records of all your posts for you.
Closing down accounts
If there is no longer a customer or business need for a social media account, it should be closed.
Before closing an account that is not related to emergency, revenue, or complex matters (see exceptional accounts), you should:
- record what the account’s function was and why it was shut down (sending this in an email or making note of it in a document is sufficient)
- share a holding statement (for example “As we are focusing on [initiative], we’ll be shutting this account on [date]. To keep up with projects like [name] and [name] follow [@handle] or visit [website].” or “We’ve changed names. We’re now operating under @newpage. Please follow us there! This account will be inactive after [date].”)
- respond to messages and provide a way to contact the appropriate team or person
- wait one week, then close, deactivate or hide the account (inactive accounts should not be visible to the public).
If you're going to need the account to run advertising campaigns in the future, it is best to leave it dormant (preferably hidden or deactivated) until needed.
Before you close an account that contains content identified as state records that have long-term retention periods (that is, 25 years or more), make sure you have an offline record of your archives. If you’re unsure whether your social media records fall into this category, please contact email@example.com for advice.
Getting your archives from the platforms
Some pages or groups do not offer an archive download, so you will need to manually archive posts, comments and other data where a download is not available.