Most people have at least one social media account. For businesses, social media has become a necessity for communication and customer service. While social media has several advantages, it can also pose a risk to security, privacy and compliance. To keep a record of social media communication and remain compliant, organizations should archive social media accounts because some compliance regulators such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) require it.

Most administrators are familiar with storing and archiving standard data such as files and databases, but archiving social media requires a much different approach. First, the platforms are hosted and controlled by a third party. Second, the data must be extracted from the third party and stored locally, including likes, follows and other attributes.

Archiving social media is no easy task. Storing basic data like author name and content is relatively easy, but to stay compliant, the archive must include additional attributes such as likes, follows and replies. The latter is what makes it challenging to archive social media content properly.

For each social media post, you must archive the author’s post and any additional information. To make the process even more complex, the data must be pulled from multiple sources. For every social media account (such as Facebook, Instagram, X, LinkedIn and Reddit), you must have a process to extract data and store it locally or in the cloud.

Properly archiving social media data is more critical than ever as more organizations have a stronger online presence. An investigation that may lead to litigation could focus on posts and other forms of communication on a social media platform. Archiving social media data ensures the organization has a backup of content that can be used in complaints.

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Where Is Social Media Content Archived?

Several websites offer search functionality to find posts, but that capability is designed for the general public, not for organizations under a compliance mandate. For example, the U.K. has a national archive that includes a social media search. This search is meant for the general public to search by keyword across Flickr, Twitter and YouTube.

If you perform a search on the archive for a word like “Microsoft,” you’ll get several results. Notice that the results provide only basic information without comments or context. Context is essential in compliant-based archived social media when it’s a factor during an investigation. Basic search functionality is not robust enough to ensure an organization’s data is available and properly archived. As an organization, the best way to be compliant and maintain backups with all relevant data is to create your own social media archive.

How Does Archiving Social Media Work?

A good social archive takes a snapshot of data so that any investigator can decipher context. Though context is important, a critical compliance factor is a “write once read many” (WORM) system. A WORM system does not allow data to be overwritten or changed after you create a snapshot.

For example, suppose that you have a snapshot of a social media post stored in a PDF. The PDF should be stored in a way that doesn’t permit changes so that the archiving system remains compliant, and no users can change the file, not even administrators. You can take another snapshot of the same post again, but it must be in a new file.

The organization’s archive system must also support search functionality. Administrators, legal representatives, and any other authorized users should be able to search the archives for posts based on keywords, filters, date and platform. The search results should allow users to easily navigate through each post so that they can be reviewed. This system makes the information more accessible during an investigation and keeps the organization compliant.

Archiving can be static or dynamic. Static PDF files contain a snapshot of a social media post and retain links and comments within the file. Archives can also be stored in a dynamic system, which offers a custom search functionality, enabling an organization’s legal team to discover data and all related posts from a single search.

Legitimacy of Social Media Archiving Services

Any application or system that archives social media data in a way that follows compliance regulations is legitimate. Because archiving is such an essential part of compliance and investigations, organizations should make sure that their chosen solution offers the features and benefits of convenience and sufficient policies to protect data integrity.

If you don’t have a solution and must find one for your organization, you need a professional to help you find the right one. Finding a social media archiving solution is just the start of staying compliant. Organizations need a data archive policy to take the proper steps to protect backups from unauthorized access. To ensure that the social archive solution is legit, a professional can help administrators navigate each option and find the right one specific to business requirements.

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