The State Archives of North Carolina is going “social,” beginning the capture of Twitter tweets, Facebook posts and the like as made by and about public officials with the help of Durham startup venture ArchiveSocial.
A pilot project was unveiled Tuesday through which searchers at the archives can find what’s been said and posted about those in government, such as Gov. Bev Perdue, and – perhaps most importantly – what elected and appointed officials might say through their social media accounts.
“This is a very new thing,” said Anil Chawla, a former IBM executive who left the technology giant to launch ArchiveSocial. “Social media is a matter or public record. States and governments have to figure out how to archive it and make it available to the public.”
ArchiveSocial, which is based in Durham, has developed proprietary technology for searching the Internet to find, organize and save social media content.
The State Archives signed a two-year contract with ArchiveSocial to launch the program, which is called “State of North Carolina – Social Archive.”
For example,a searcher can enter “Bev Perdue” in the search box. Within moments, Facebook posts, Twitter comments and more appear on one screen.
The beta launch of the social archive includes more than 55,000 records. Financial terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed.
Kelly Eubank, head of the electronic records for the state archives, believes that social media belongs in the public record and had been an outspoken leader on that front long before the agreement with ArchiveSocial and the launching of the first site.
“For the first time ever, we can capture the full context of social media as it happens and make the records almost instantly available to the general public,” said Eubank.
Chawla pointed out that ArchiveSocial scours sources for information then stores it in a complete and searchable form that “feels like a carbon copy of each social network.”
The data base will help state agencies comply with free of information requirements and state public records laws, she added.
N.C. a “Thought Leader”
When state employees send email now, each message already includes a disclaimer that such information is public record.
In a recent interview, Chawla pointed out that social media interactions leave behind a trail that can be followed.
“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens on social media simply stays,” Chawla said. “This is our tongue-in-cheek way of emphasizing that there a lot of things happening on social media, and that the data is out there. Somebody else has probably seen it or has access to it, and as a business, it is important for you to keep tabs on it yourself.”
Chawla approached Eubank about setting up a state database after hearing about her advocacy efforts on behalf of transparency in government.
“In my market research, I kept coming across North Carolina and Kelly. She’s been a real thought leader on the subject,” Chawla said.
The problem was how to archive it in an organized fashion, Chawla said. That’s where his firm’s technology came into play.
“We approached North Carolina before we even went to market,” said Chawla, whose company employs three people and has received funding from the Triangle Startup Factory and NC IDEA, an economic development fund.
From conception, the company has seen government as a potential customer. ArchiveSocial already is working with city, county and state government agencies in seven states. But the North Carolina contract is the “most significant” to date because “North Carolina government is fairly centralized and the State Archives covers all the state agencies,” Chawla explained.
The Business of Social Media
Chawla’s approach to businesses is similar, but with a focus on helping firms build their brands and also keeping track of records as required by regulatory agencies.
“We know that social media presents tremendous opportunities for businesses to build their brand, grow their audience, and foster relationships. However, there is a side of social media management that is critically important to businesses, but is rarely being addressed today,” Chawla told WRAL News in a recent profile of the company.
“Businesses fundamentally need to own their own data and have records of their incoming and outgoing communications for legal and compliance reasons. While it has been relatively straightforward for businesses to maintain records of traditional communications such as paper documents and email, social media presents a number of significant new challenges. ArchiveSocial automatically captures and archives business-grade records from social networks including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It takes care of the record keeping so that businesses can focus on being social.”