Managing social media

Social media is a form of communication that occurs on various platforms, such as websites and applications. It enables you to collaborate, participate, contribute and reuse information online in the course of your business. If your agency uses social media for business activities, the information created is a Commonwealth record and needs to be managed.

Social media can be:

  • blogs
  • wikis
  • forums
  • social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram
  • instant messaging
  • social bookmarking
  • social curation
  • media sharing, such as YouTube, Vimeo
  • collaborative editing sites.

Australian Government agencies are accountable for their actions and decisions. When your agency uses social media for its business activities, it is required to keep accurate and sufficient information documenting these activities. This information needs to be kept in a usable and accessible form for as long as it is needed.

The Archives Act 1983 does not limit the definition of information and records by their format. Business information created as a result of using social media is subject to the same business and legislative requirements as business information created by other means.

Social media and information management issues

Should all social media interactions be kept?

Different information has different value and purpose. More valuable social media information, such as feedback about policy, announcements or complaints, needs to be retained appropriately. The decision is not always obvious, so a judgement must be made about the material's relevance to your agency's business. Contact your information management unit for specific advice.

Social media and third party sites

When using third party social platforms, it is important to ensure that any Australian Government obligations, including the management of information, are met. Social media records held in their native applications at third party sites may not be legally regarded as a Commonwealth record. Despite being created by an Australian Government agency, the information retention and ongoing access might not be assured.

Your agency’s social media policy should identify what type of information needs to be captured in your agency’s records management system, endorsed business system, or social media capturing tools. In essence, the same information management principles apply to social media content as to other business information created in your agency.

One option when setting up a blog might be to use an agency-hosted or an Australian Government-hosted platform to ensure the information that is communicated remains the property of the Commonwealth.

Social media and the ‘authentic record’

Social media is dynamic. The content is ever-changing and government information may be taken up by others for use and reuse. It is important that your agency keeps an accurate and authentic ‘original’ copy of business information posted on social media and captures it in the records management system or other endorsed business system.

Social media and responsibilities

If your agency uses social media, it should have a social media policy outlining the information management requirements and protocols for social media use. The social media policy should be linked to, or be part of, your agency’s information management policy.

Web administrators may routinely capture records of social media interactions. Social media policy needs to be clear about when this routine capture is sufficient and when individual authors are responsible for capturing information from the social media platforms in your agency’s records management system or other endorsed business system. Your information management unit should be able to assist with these decisions.

For more advice on developing a Social media policy, see our related guidance – Your social media policy – what about records?

Capturing records created on social media

There are several methods available for capturing records created on social media. The most suitable method to use will depend on the volume of records to be captured and the specific circumstances (eg. the type of social media or device used).

Capturing multiple records at regular intervals (eg. weekly, fortnightly, or monthly as part of a business process)

  • Use the export or download feature of the social media platform or messaging app. A particular date range, type of information (eg. posts, photos and videos, messages) or different file formats can be selected for download.
  • The downloaded file should be captured into your agency's records management system. Data may be downloaded as a CSV/Excel or HTML file from a social media account and saved locally to an official PC before capturing into the system
  • Use third party social media management software solutions, archiving platforms, or apps specific to various social media networks or messaging apps. There are a number of solutions which can be used to sort, select, download and save social media content locally to an official PC. Some solutions can also generate customised periodic reports of social media activity, which should be captured into your agency's records management system.

Capturing records on an ad-hoc basis (eg. where use is infrequent or for a small number of records)

  • Take a screenshot of the relevant interaction (eg. a policy decision, a direction, an action, a WhatsApp conversation). If a mobile device is used, forward the image via email to the applicable official email account. The email should then be captured into your agency's records management system. If a PC is used, take a screenshot (eg. with PrintScreen, Snipping Tool or a third-party tool) and save locally before capturing into the system.
  • Use browser 'save', 'save post', or 'save page as'. Save as complete webpage where possible. The link (URL) to the saved post, tweet etc can be 'shared', 'copied' and 'pasted', after which it can be downloaded and saved locally to an official PC before capturing into the system.
  • Summarise the interaction in a file note or list multiple interactions in supporting documentation (eg. spreadsheet) with the relevant descriptive information (eg. author, title or subject, content, date content was uploaded or deleted). Capture the file note and supporting documentation into your agency's records management system.


Examples of social media:

  • Accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube
  • Messaging applications, such as Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, Wickr, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).

Descriptive information to be saved:

  • Content
  • Title, if applicable
  • Author (of the post, tweet etc), participants to a conversation on a messaging app
  • Date created or received
  • Date the content was removed or deleted, if applicable.

Example – downloading Facebook interactions to an official PC:

  • Select 'Settings', select 'Your Facebook information' and click 'Download your information'
  • Select a date range and a particular type of information (eg. posts, messages) then click 'Create a file'
  • Once the file is processed, click 'Download' and select the location on your PC (eg. Desktop) for the compressed .zip folder
  • Capture the uncompressed or compressed (if contains hundreds of files) folder into your agency's records management system.

Example – exporting WhatsApp conversations on mobile devices:

  • Open the chat by selecting the person or group's name
  • Use the export feature of the mobile device
  • Select 'Mail' option
  • Enter or select the relevant email address and 'Send'.

Case study

An Australian Government agency has a Twitter account which is the only way a policy unit releases new policy updates to the public.

The policy unit consults with the information management team who advise that the tweets must be captured and retained as they are Commonwealth records.

The information Management team also determine that this use of Twitter justifies fortnightly capture of official Twitter exchanges.

The policy unit exports the tweets in plain text format into the agency's records management system on a fortnightly basis.

Help and feedback

The Agency Service Centre can give advice on information management obligations arising from the use of social media platforms.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019