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Social Media Capture Service Eases Compliance Burden

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Change in social media comes so fast that if you try to take a snapshot, you're likely to record only a blur. That's a problem for organizations that are required to keep an accurate record of all their electronic communications.

Since 2005, the State of North Carolina has archived copies of its Web properties using Archive-It, a fee-based service from the creators of the nonprofit Internet Archive project. However, that solution is starting to break down in the age of social media sites that are updated minute-by-minute, stitching together content on the fly with dynamic JavaScript.

"Social media is very different from static Web pages because it's constantly changing," said Kelly Eubank, head of electronic records for the State of North Carolina archives. Because social media is treated as a public record under the law, the state needs to keep a record of everything it publishes and all the communications it receives over social media. "When Facebook came out with the latest iteration of the Timeline look, that was a serious problem for us in terms of rendering back that content," Eubank said. Now, the state is experimenting with an alternate solution from ArchiveSocial, a startup that wants to distinguish itself with more complete capture of social media content.

"We promise 100% authentic capture," ArchiveSocial CEO and founder Anil Chawla said in an interview. Other enterprise archiving products such as those from Actiance also target social media archiving, often with an emphasis on serving financial services firms that are required to store copies of their representatives' communications and social profiles. But when enterprise data archiving services tack on social media to products originally designed for email or instant messaging, they tend to store social messages in a similar format, often losing some of the metadata and context of social communications, Chawla said.

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In contrast, ArchiveSocial can retrieve entire threaded discussions from Facebook, preserving the relationship between the original post and the response it generated, he said. When a message includes an image, some competing solutions store a link to the image, but ArchiveSocial downloads and stores the highest resolution version of that image file--meaning the organization will have a record of it even if the photo is later deleted from the social media service.

Each bit of data is also timestamped and marked with a digital signature so that it can stand up as evidence in court. As the use of social media data in lawsuits and other legal proceedings becomes more prevalent, organizations will need to be able to produce faithful records of messages, comments, and images, in the order they were recorded, Chawla said.

"We've made a commitment to capturing this data in as authentic manner as makes sense," Chawla said. If Facebook changes its font size, ArchiveSocial will not promise to match it pixel for pixel, but short of that you should be able to retrieve and display a faithful reproduction from the archive console, he said. The service so far covers Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, with YouTube next on its list. Google+ and Pinterest could follow, depending on customer demand.

The State of North Carolina is experimenting with using Archive Social to accurately capture interactions on state Facebook pages, such as this one for North Carolina Culture.

ArchiveSocial is a North Carolina company, and all the references Chawla provided were from North Carolina organizations. The state has not made any commitment to ArchiveSocial, but is testing its solution and will be likely to give it a chance to bid when the state's contract with Archive-It comes up for renewal, Eubank said. "I will say I like it quite a bit," she said.

Chawla said he sees a good potential market with government agencies, where in many cases the current solution to addressing public records requirements is to copy and paste social media messages into a Microsoft Word document. "That's the state of the art," he said.

ArchiveSocial is also being offered as a modestly priced cloud-based service that will be within the budgetary reach of small to midsize businesses (SMBs), he said. A personal account is $49 per month (for up to four social accounts), a small business plan is $99 per month (up to 10 accounts), and a professional plan is $199 per month (25 accounts, with the option to add more at the rate of $7 per month each). All levels are available with a 14-day free trial. Accounts generally correspond to individual profiles, but each Facebook page to be archived counts as an additional account.

Another early customer is Jim Russo, president of Altrius Capital Management, an SEC registered investment advisor with offices in Raleigh and New Bern, N.C. Without ArchiveSocial, Russo said his office would be managing the archiving of social profiles on LinkedIn by having an administrative assistant take screen captures whenever the wording was changed even slightly. The ArchiveSocial solution is much more efficient, he said. "This is very whiz-bang and easy to use, and it saves us a lot of time," he said.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and

Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)