Your social media policy - what about records?

Did you know that when you use social media in the course of your business, you are generating a Commonwealth record? This social media interaction is a record as it contains evidence of your agency's business activities.

Your agency should have in place a Social Media Policy. This policy should cover matters such as security, privacy and copyright in the use of social media. It should also include advice on how to manage your social media records. This policy is a good starting point to remind yourself of what you need to consider for the management of information and records created by their use of social media tools.

Social media policies and protocols

There are certain policies and protocols that you need to be aware of if you chose to use social media as a communication tool for your agency’s business activities.

As a government employee using social media, you must be aware of the advice provided by:

  • the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct
  • the Australian Public Service Commission’s (APSC) Circular 2012/1:Revisions to the Commission's guidance on making public comment and participating online
  • your agency’s social media policies and guidelines.

The level of detail that your agency includes about information and records management responsibilities will vary, but at a minimum it should include contact details for your agency's records management unit and it should refer to your agency's records management policy.

Social media policy - what to include

Ideally, a social media policy will include:

  • a reminder for staff that when using social media, they may be generating Commonwealth records
  • a definition of a social media record, for example: 'social media records can be defined as information which contains evidence of your agency’s business activities'.
  • the information and records management responsibilities of content creators, web administrators, ICT staff, communications staff and records management staff
  • a statement highlighting the importance of taking ownership for content, and assigning responsibility for managing records
  • clearly defined information and records management requirements and protocols for collaborative social media sites which are hosted by one or more agencies
  • information and records management practices for social media—such as how records will be captured, and how often
  • contact details for the agency or department's records management unit and a link to the records management policy for more assistance and advice.

Remember to update your agency's records management policy to include the management of social media records. The content of the two policies must complement one another and be linked to ensure they are updated and maintained together.

When planning the content of your agency's social media policy, we recommend that you:

  • include information and records management guidance for social media
  • involve records management staff in the development of the social media policy

Remember to also update your agency's information and records management policy to include the management of social media records. A sample social media policy statement is included below.

Sample social media policy statement

Staff need to create and manage accurate records of their business activities to ensure decisions and actions can be accounted for.

This includes social media activities. When using social media in an official capacity, staff are creating records which provide evidence of business transactions and activities.

What should be captured?

Staff should ask themselves:

  • Does social media use in my agency produce evidence of my agency’s business activities?
  • Does information and records created in social media need to be captured into my agency’s records management system?
  • Are the records already captured – for example, was a final version developed, approved, captured in the records management system and later posted to the social media site? Or does the record exist only on the social media site?
  • Who owns the content (especially where there are non-Commonwealth contributors) and should it be captured?

For further advice and assistance on your responsibilities to capture information and records, refer to [insert your agency’s records management policy].

How to capture

Methods of capturing social media content as a record may vary according to the tools being used. Contact the information and records management unit for specific advice.

Who is responsible – your own social media site

When setting up a social media site, or when using new social media, content creators should confirm processes, policies and records management roles and responsibilities with key business areas ( such as web services, information and records management units and ICT) to ensure that information and records are identified and managed properly.

The business owner who manages the content of the social media site will be responsible for capturing the information and records of business activities. For short-lived content it may be sufficient to rely on the web administer’s back up of social media sites.

NOTE: Content hosted on a third party site, such as Facebook or Twitter, will not be captured by these back-ups. They will need to be captured separately if they are of business value.

Who is responsible – collaborative sites

If the collaborative site is not hosted by your agency, a strategy outlining records management responsibilities should be developed and made available on the site. The agency hosting the site would usually take responsibility for managing the site itself and keeping records of this – for example, audit logs, routine back-ups, ad ‘whole-of-site’ capture as needed. Contributors to the site should keep records of their own contributions.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017