What’d you say? Archiving the conversation for public records

There is no doubt that social media is a standard practice for state DOTs and other transportation agencies. And, as with other standard government communications, public records and retention laws, guidance and regulation abound for social media.

That’s right. Today’s transportation communications practitioners expected to keep up with emerging technologies, learn the rapidly shifting cultures that govern each unique space, and stand ready to share credible, vetted information at a moments notice regardless of the time of day. They also have to understand and comply with archiving rules and regulations governing their organization. 

But that is not happening evenly throughout the country. According to the annual American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials annual State DOT Social Media Survey, not quite half of state DOTs are actually archiving their social media data. In 2014, 51 percent of respondents said their agency did not archive social media for public records purposes.

Yet, in nearly every state, social media is treated as a public record. And, it is not just the message being sent by the DOT, but also the conversation with the public and, in many situations, the meta data that is embedded in the conversations.

In Washington State, the Office of the Governor published social media guidelines and best practices for state agencies in 2010, which cites a Washington State Office of the Secretary of State “records management advice” document to help agencies establish a social media records retention plan.

Other states have similar forms of guidance. And, some states have hired vendors to help. Alaska reports it uses a service called SMARSH. Another archive service is ArchiveSocial.

Regardless of the tool or vendor you use, the recommendations are consistent. Have an archiving, public records plan. Some day you might need it.

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About Lloyd Brown

I am the director of communications for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. I enjoy running marathons and triathlons, playing guitar and spending time with family. My professional interest is in how social media and new technology shapes the communication relationship between government and the general public. I have a Master’s degree in Communications and Leadership from Gonzaga University in Spokane and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Washington State University.
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