What to do? I can't help you strike the right balance between the need to present an appropriate face to the public and the free speech rights of your employees -- the courts will probably do that -- but if you're a government official or employee contemplating using social media, be sure to check out the following resources:
- Government Technology's Five Social Media Missteps to Avoid
- iDisaster 2.0's Top 36 Items to Include in Social Media Policies
- The Center for Technology in Government's Designing Social Media for Government: Eight Essential Elements, which contains links to a wide array of state and local government policies
- Patricia C. Franks's How Federal Agencies Can Effectively Manage Records Created Using New Social Media Tools
- The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration's NARA Bulletin 2011-02, Guidance on Managing Records in Web 2.0/Social Media Platforms
My own experience is limited to capturing content created by others, which poses some additional challenges: some social media capture tools are expressly designed to help people preserve their own content and require full login rights. In such a situation, use of a Web crawler may be the best approach. I've experimented -- with decidedly mixed results -- with using OCLC's Heritrix-based Web Harvester to capture Facebook, IdeaScale, Twitter, and YouTube content, and I know several people have had somewhat greater success with Heritrix-based Archive-It service. If you're interested in exploring Web crawling of social media content, check out this nice list of Web crawling software and services.
If you're looking to preserve your own content, other options are available:
- Several low- and no-cost tools that support capture and archiving of one's own Facebook and Twitter content are out there. For more information, consult April Edmonds's superb overview.
- TwapperKeeper enables you to capture and preserve tweets (i.e., individual Twitter posts) that contain specified hashtags or keywords. Using this tool to capture all of the tweets created by a specific office may be a challenge, but it can be used to capture all of the tweets related to a specific subject or event. Sadly, the "download and export" and "API" components features present within the Web-based version of TwapperKeeper were recently removed at the behest of Twitter. However, it's still possible to install an open source version of the software that still includes these features on your own server.
- A growing number of software companies, among them Arkovi, Backupify, LiveOffice, Smarsh, Sonian, and Symantec, are creating social media archiving tools or incorporating them into larger e-mail archiving products. If you're already using an e-mail archiving product, investigate whether it also supports social media archiving. If you're not, a stand-alone commercial product or service may meet your needs.