Tag Archives: Social media

10 things we wish you had been there to hear at our 2016 Scottish user group

We kicked off our 2016 user groups in fine style up in Edinburgh this week. This one was hosted in collaboration with the Scottish Government, and the day was particularly exciting as it included our very first Dialogue user group in the afternoon.  The user groups are a regular opportunity for customers to catch up, to see how others in similar roles are using their platforms to manage their online consultation and engagement activity, and hopefully to pick up some interesting tips and insights.

So, for the benefit of those who weren’t at the event, we’ve a quick round-up of 10 things we wish you could’ve been there to hear. Without further ado:

1. Timing is key

This is particularly pertinent as many of our UK customers are currently in purdah (pre-election period), so are not able to begin new consultations and would have needed to time their engagement activity carefully before this period began.

The key is ensuring consultation or challenge launch, promotion and feedback are timed correctly as this can impact on the success of the exercise. This might include timing promotion throughout the consultation period and not just at the start and end. Or when it comes to Dialogue, giving a challenge a specific window of time to run, as this can encourage participation:

“Dialogue has to be alive, the shorter a challenge is open the better”

Christine Connolly , Digital Engagement Manager, The Scottish Government

Our Dialogue Success Guide has a few tips on structuring when you run your challenges.

2. Using Dialogue for Participatory Budgeting (PB) can help generate ideas which may otherwise have not been heard

At the beginning of 2016, Glasgow City Council used their Dialogue instance  to consult on how they should save £130m in their budget consultation. In order to consult with as many stakeholders as possible, Glasgow ran their budget challenge at the same time as three associated events. What was immediately clear, was that the ideas generated at the events were different to those which had been received online. This helped ensure that views were heard from stakeholders who might not have otherwise provided their thoughts on the topic.

3. Processes are made for sharing

One of the most useful outputs of our user groups is hearing how our users create processes around their tools which can then be shared with other organisations. In our first UK user group in 2014, we heard how Leicester City Council had implemented a consultation tracker to manage their consultation activity – an idea for an effective process which came up again during our Scottish user group. If a consultation wasn’t listed on the tracker by a certain date it, then it wouldn’t be published on Citizen Space: this helped Leicester CC to ensure consistency in approach by giving them enough time to create quality consultations.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 11.12.56
Image source: Leicester City Council

4. Review and improve little and often

Both Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government are not only reviewing their processes internally, but are also asking their respondents to feedback to them on how they have found the consultation. They do this by asking a standard question at the end of all surveys, meaning it’s possible for them to track satisfaction levels and to review their approach to online consultation.

5. Making the most of the Citizen Space support page can really help internal processes

One of our digital heroes, Emma McEwan presented how Edinburgh City Council have adopted their Citizen Space in the last couple of years. Following the launch of Citizen Space version 2 last year, Edinburgh were able to add in a support page to their instance detailing how to get support with online consultation from inside the council, and also sharing an issues log of what questions or queries had been raised and the associated answers.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 11.38.39


6. Make the most of the digital toolbox already availableScreen Shot 2016-04-28 at 10.31.29Making the most of existing digital tools can help compliment an engagement exercise. Glasgow City Council have one of the largest Twitter followings of any local authority in the UK. With this expertise, they decided to take a similar approach to running their budget challenge on Dialogue as they do on Twitter.

“We didn’t want to be too heavy-handed in our approach when it came to moderation. We really wanted to let the conversation flow as much as possible on Dialogue like we do on Twitter”

Gary Hurr, Strategic Web and Customer Care Manager, Glasgow City Council

In order to ensure that Glasgow City Council ran a well-promoted budgeting exercise, its chief executive hosted a Twitter Q&A and they published the outputs on their budget page. In order to feedback on the whole process, the council used Storify to display the Tweets received.

7. Don’t let anything slip through the net: supporting your users

Digital engagement includes a broad spectrum of responsibilities and knowledge learnt. Tools like Zendesk can help ensure this knowledge is recorded and shared in the right way and that your colleagues’ requests for your expert help don’t get lost in your overflowing inbox. At Delib, we use Zendesk to manage our online support and knowledge base of help articles. It’s a pretty big job to keep this updated, but an important one to support the thousands of people that use our software. The Government Digital Service (GDS, UK) has also been using Zendesk since 2012 and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS, UK) also uses Zendesk to manage its digital ticketing work flow.

8. Make something you are proud to share and use plain English

This was a key message from most customers at the user group and one of Edinburgh City Council’s key learnings since adopting their Citizen Space instance in 2014. Making something you are proud to share goes hand in hand with giving yourself the time to pilot surveys. Often you will know when a big consultation is about to spring up, but the smaller ones can slip through the net without any quality assurance run against them to check whether they have been translated from policy speak to plain English.

9. Running internal meetings with colleagues can help share important messages about how you do online consultation

Another of the key questions which came out of the user group was around how to encourage different teams to begin doing online consultation (adopting a de-centralised approach) and to ensure the quality of consultations they are running is high. To help solve this, Edinburgh City Council run regular internal meetings with their Citizen Space ‘power users’ alongside their own internal user group twice a year to share information and best practice.

10. Decide early how you are going to analyse and feedback to respondents, but be open to adapting your planned approach

Before launching the budget challenge on their Dialogue instance, Edinburgh City Council decided that they would get back to the top five highest rated ideas as part of their feedback process. As it turned out, the top five which had the highest rated average vote didn’t fully capture other ideas which generated equally important discussions, so they responded to the top fifteen ideas: adapting their feedback criteria appropriately.

We hope you enjoyed the user group as much as we did and if you didn’t have time to attend don’t fret we’ll most certainly be holding more user groups in 2016 with London up next. In 2015, we ran no fewer than 5 user groups around the world: kicking off in Scotland and finishing in Australia.  Here’s a summary of the other user groups we ran around the world last year:

London: October 2015
Perth (Western Australia): October 2015
Canberra (ACT, Australia): October 2015

A Western Australian approach…maximising the potential of social media

Recently we had Donna Weston from ‘Down Under’ pop into Delib’s offices to have a cup (or many cups!) of tea and to chat about all things digital and democracy. Donna is the Communications Coordinator at the Office of the Environmental Protection Authority in the State of Western Australia (WAEPA) and has been using Citizen Space over the last few years.

Donna had just attended the 35th Annual Meeting of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) last week in Italy. The IAIA is the leading global network on best practice in the use of impact assessments to make informed decisions regarding policies, programs, plans and projects. By bringing together experts and practitioners with diverse backgrounds, the IAIA aims to establish and disseminate best practice for impact assessments. The Office of the Environmental Protection Authority were there to present a paper on how they were using digital tools and social media to revolutionise environmental impact assessments in Western Australia.

Lucky for us, Donna made the extra effort to pop a little further across Europe to our part of the world, to share some of those insights with us. We’re always excited to hear stories from our customers about how they’re engaging people in better ways!

Image illustrating the Western Australian approach to the social media landscape with dedicated tools for publishing, sharing, discussing and networking

The Western Australian Approach to Social Media in Environmental Impact Assessments (adapted from Cromity, 2012 and Nagle and Pope, 2013)

Donna shared some of the positive engagements they have had through using digital tools and social media to influence the environmental impact assessment process. At the core of their strategy is the Citizen Space consultation hub, acting as the primary tool for publishing, managing and running consultations. In particular the WAEPA used Citizen Space extensively in 2014 for a number of contentious assessments including proposals to implement a shark mitigation program, and proposals to explore and mine in areas of natural bushland with high biodiversity values.This strategy was effective in increasing levels of participation and also helped to raise awareness for sharks and the complex relationship between man and nature. Responses to the three consultations relating to shark mitigation were particularly strong with over 14,000 responses received.

A screenshot of the Western Australia Environment Protection Authority Citizen Space

The WAEPA was able to monitor conversations through channels such as Twitter. They used it to direct the public and stakeholders to information relating to impact assessments, and policy development, as well as opportunities to respond to new consultations. Although they are unable to engage in a two way dialogue due to their particular remit and purpose, the EPA was able to take advantage of the networks to disseminate information as well as raise awareness about their work. In particular I was impressed by their application of the social media framework above to ensure they covered and monitored the realms of publishing, sharing, discussing and networking

The Western Australian experience is hugely informative and provides a helpful case study on how digital tools and social media can positively influence the environmental impact assessment process. These methods offer an often untapped potential for greater public participation. For the WAEPA it has helped them to:

  • communicate the clear purpose of environmental impact assessment to stakeholders, providing the opportunities for them to feedback into the decision making process;
  • increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of large scale public participation;
  • become more adaptable during the public consultation process;
  • show greater transparency by providing open and immediate access to information;
  • better target the interested and affected public for participation.

Being a secondee from the British Civil Service, meeting Donna offered a refreshing and encouraging insight into the use of digital tools and social media internationally. Something I’ll definitely be taking back with me for sure! It’s exciting to see the digital democracy bug catch on across the world and I can’t wait to hear more stories from customers and to celebrate their successes.



With thanks to Donna and her colleagues from the WAEPA.

BIS give us a lesson in effective promotion with their sharing economy consultation

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has recently finished conducting a call for evidence on an Independent review of the sharing economy. Feedback on the review is being collected in three ways:

BIS Independent Sharing Economy

What is the sharing economy and why is it important to conduct a call for evidence?

“The sharing economy is coming and it’s being driven by consumers” Debbie Wosskow

The sharing economy is a new set of business models, driven by technologies that are making it easier for people to share their property, time and skills. Examples include property sharing via services such as Airbnb and shared transport – for example Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. The call for evidence is being led via an independent review by Debbie Wosskow (CEO of Love home swap). Ms Wosskow’s tactics will be to ask for evidence both in the conventional government ways and digitally, aiming to produce an interactive report that will draw from the experience of workers and consumers too.

Effective survey design

In order to ensure the call for evidence was tailored to different respondents’ needs, the Citizen Space survey included the use of skip-logic to ‘route’ respondents to a set of questions relevant to them. Especially commendable was the use of survey routing by audience-type, with more open free-text questions for respondents from an organisation to enable extended commenting on the subject. The survey also included the use of fact banks, which enable respondents to view more information on the topic if needed.

Generate Twitter noise

The consultation picked up a large amount of traction on Twitter. The call for evidence opened on 29th September 2014 and on the same day attracted 806 tweets being posted within just 24 hours. Using the relevant hashtag #sharingeconomy in most tweets, it was easy to follow the conversation on Twitter.

BIS also tweeted the call for evidence at potential respondents who may be interested in the subject, which helped ensure a two-way conversation. A summary of some of the best Tweets which had been posted were also made available by BIS via a Storify post.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.13.12An extended period for comment with a sense of urgency created around the closing date

A sense of urgency was also created around the closing date of the call for evidence, with the consultation date being extended to enable more participants to take part.Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.08.53

Direct link and page through from GOV.UK

In order to ensure respondents could also find the call for evidence from GOV.UK a direct link through to Citizen Space was added under the call to action ‘Give your views on the sharing economy’.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 12.18.08A dedicated microsite and newsletter created as a hub for the review

The sharing economy review itself has its own dedicated micro-site, recently commended by Helpful Technology. The site links through to relevant posts about the review – namely a number of stories, sites and blogs . The site also provides an opportunity to sign-up to a dedicated newsletter for the review which links through to the call for evidence.

Inclusion of existing research and relevant infographics

BIS also included reference to previous research conducted by PwC on the sharing economy, which helped contextualise the consultation.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.12.09BIS aims to produce a report by the end of the year following the call for evidence and we’re looking forward to seeing the results.

Your money your views? 3 British councils open up the public ledgers…

We like to take the time every now and again to talk about some exciting ways the people we work with are doing consultation. Citizen Space is our app that fits a standard consultation approach most closely – but our other platforms, Budget Simulator and Dialogue App, use technology to enable citizens’ involvement in policy in different ways. Read on to hear about what’s going on at the moment…

Budget Simulator

Budget Simulator is an app that lets organisations share the spending decisions they have to make with everyone.

At the moment Enfield council are facing a budget gap of £30 million in 2015/16. There are no easy ways of making the necessary cuts – every reduction in spending will impact citizens in some way. Using Budget Simulator, residents of Enfield can see where money is currently being spent, explore the impact that a reduction or increase in each area will have, and submit their own budget

Enfeilf Council Budget Simulator front-page


Derby City Council have a similar job to do, and have also been using Budget Simulator to let people have their say. They’ve been working hard to get everyone involved in the discussion, especially those who might not be the first to add their voices in a consultation exercise. The Council have run a busy schedule of events, visiting schools, community groups, residents associations and others. Those attending events can go on the budget simulator while they are there and give their responses in real time.

Big Conversation logo  Proud of Derby logo

Respondents could also add comments to their budgets, giving them the flexibility to express other opinions related to the budgeting process. Throughout the consultation, they have consistently used the taglines ‘Your Money, Your Views’, and ‘The Big Conversation’, to create a recognisable brand. This has helped to take the exercise away from a traditional model of consultation, and make it a more exciting, innovative and involving process.

Edinburgh council’s budget simulator has gone live today. Edinburgh have taken an interesting approach to grouping the different services they provide. Rather than breaking it down according to the organisational structure of the council, they’ve tried to badge them according to how they affect citizens’ lives

  • An attractive city to live and work in
  • A strong economy for the city
  • Better services for customers
  • Opportunities for all to achieve their potential
  • A good quality of life for everyone

Edinburgh Budget Simulator allocation page


Dialogue App – North Futures

On the 7th of November, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will be chairing the Northern Futures summit in Leeds. Leading up to the summit, the Cabinet Office are leading a multi-pronged program of engagement, centred around their dialogue app site. The site gives everyone the chance to submit their ideas, as well as to comment and give ratings to proposals others have put forward.

Accompanying the website, The Northern Futures team are also using twitter (follow them at @North_Futures!) and are convening ‘Open Ideas Days’ around the North on October 16th.

This kind of approach – creating a high-quality debate across society, using different media platforms, is exactly the kind of ‘Open Policy-making’ that we hope government will be doing more and more of!

Matthew is at Delib for 6 months, as a secondee from the Civil Service Fast Stream.

He’s featured here on our blog. You can also follow him on twitter at @Matth0rnsby 

Guest Blog: Social media tools for public organisations

This blog comes courtesy of Megan Bennett. Megan has just completed her AS-levels and has been working with us this week, learning about digital democracy and looking at how local and central government use consultation to develop their public services.

As an A level student lucky enough to be doing work experience with Delib, I have had the unique opportunity to learn more about how democracy can be increased through the use of online applications. Here I’ve been looking at how social media tools can help organisations to build an online presence and promote their engagement activity.

The stats

As of last month there were approximately 1.28 billion Facebook users, 343 million Google+ users and 255 million Twitter users. It is estimated that by 2017 there will be a total of 2.33 billion social media users, nearly a third of the global population, up from 0.97 billion users in 2010*. These social networks can be referred to as tools when they are used to promote online consultations. Modern organisations can use the upsurge to get a broader, more accurate and therefore more democratic public opinion on new policies or budgets.

*statistics and figures taken from: http://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/ and http://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/

What are the benefits of using social media as a tool to promote online consultations?

1. Increased awareness of the organisation and increased traffic to website and the consultation – social media is possibly the best way to increase awareness of an issue or consultation as users can share and discuss it with each other.

An image of Avon and Somerset Police's Flickr feed
Avon and Somerset Police use Flickr to show what they are up to

2. Greater favourable perceptions of the organisation and a better understanding of the perception of the organisation.

3. Organisations are more able to monitor conversations and frequency of conversations about them or their consultations.

4. Improved insights about their target markets and development of targeted activities, such as consultations aimed at specific groups based on what they have been shown to want.

5. These tools can also help improve democracy in local communities.

An image of Bristol City Council's YouTube account
Bristol City Council use YouTube to show what happens behind the doors of city hall.

A working example:

Leicester City Council had a good outcome from their online consultation on the redevelopment of a skate park, but it was the lively debate on Facebook that prompted the council to take a phase two of the consultation out to the skaters themselves. The council also used the ‘We Asked, You Said , We Did’ feature on Citizen Space to feedback this decision, showing they had listened to their audience and adapted their approach.

Feedback from Leicester City Council about a consultation on skate park redevelopment
Feedback from Leicester City Council on their innovative and flexible approach to consulting a specific audience

Using the right channel for the right audience

Many organisations have lots of accounts on a wide variety of social media websites. This is important as each website appeals to a different type of user, expecting a different type of content.

An image of Transport for London's Facebook account
Transport for London use Facebook amongst other tools

An organisation could not effectively use the same content on LinkedIn and Instagram as these both have different target audiences. Organisations need to carefully consider their audience and what platform would be the most suitable. Once you know your target audience for each channel, you can create consultations that appeal to these people and broadcast them on the relevant form of social media in order to boost the response.

Many government agencies and organisations use social media to monitor public opinion on key topics, to extend the impact of campaign messages and to build a retainable audience for campaigns over extended periods. In this way, social media can be used to get an idea of what proposals would be the most popular with citizens, once again helping to get a more widespread and accurate response.

Help with managing your online presence

An image of the Forestry Commission's Twitter account
Forestry Commission sharing via Twitter

A good idea may be to use a social media management tool. There are a number available including HootSuite, SocialOomph, Buffer, SproutSocial and many more – do some research into which is best for you or your organisation. A certain amount of trial and error may be required, but it won’t be a waste of time if you are serious about using social media to promote consultations. These programmes can also tell you a bit about who your followers are, for example, their age, gender, how often they tweet etc. Some can even tell you the best times to tweet based on when most of your followers are usually online.

Social media is a great opportunity for organisations to take advantage of. While there are always risks to a strong presence online, it would be a good idea to consider these against the potential advantages – not least the increase in the democratic process through opening up consultations to a wider audience, many of whom may not have even been aware that such things existed.

To centralise or de-centralise? How Citizen Space supports both methods of working

Examining how software can compliment, aid and add value to existing processes is a keen interest of mine. Our customers often ask how Citizen Space can be used to aid their workflow, or can be set-up in such a way to help manage approval processes. It may sound a little geeky, but I love hearing about when Citizen Space has made an organisations’ life a little easier.

We are regularly asked how other organisations choose to adopt Citizen Space internally and, broadly speaking, there are two methods of adoption – the centralised model or a de-centralised way of working.

How Citizen Space can be used to compliment a de-centralised method of working

The whole idea of this method is that policy teams are closer to the issues being consulted on. They can analyse and use information garnered through consultation to help inform the policies they are currently working on. In short, respondents’ answers will come through to those who really know the issues at hand.

Using Citizen Space in a de-centralised manner in practice, essentially involves rolling out the system across the whole organisation. This means utilising the systems’ robust user structure to set-up site admins (normally one or two) who take control of the overall set-up and ‘lead’ on the app. Department admins can then ‘advocate’ and check consultation quality standards within their team, whilst working with individual admins to run consultations. The following features can be used to help manage such a method of working in practice:

Both London Borough of Sutton and London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham effectively utilise this method of working. LBHF also effectively run internal training on a regular basis.

How Citizen Space can be used to compliment a centralised method of working

  • Set up one or two site admins who have control over all consultations. This approach helps ensure there is an organisational overview of all consultation activity.
  • All consultations are built by one or two individuals within a small team who know the system the best, the aim here is to maintain a consistent quality approach.
  • Calendars can be closely managed, reducing the risk of survey fatigue to the public. Consultations can be created and templated by this central team before being copied across between departments using our newly released survey cloning feature.
  • Reporting on outcomes can be fully standardised and sent for action within the appropriate team.

Transport for London build their Citizen Space consultations within a core team and these are signed off by two key users who have established a consultation centre of excellence. Rochdale Borough Council also centrally manage their Citizen Space instance within their research team, meaning their analysis experts are part of the survey build, as well as assessing the consultation outcomes.

Choosing which method works for you, or indeed benefiting from both models of working, will of course depend on how your organisation is structured and what suits the skills within it. There certainly isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach here and many of our customers benefit from a mixture of both methods, adapting these as their use of Citizen Space evolves. Our aim is for all of our customers to become ‘consultation centres of excellence’, so if you would like to discuss these methods of working or other ways we can help you, please contact your account manager as we’d love to chat.

Delib holds local democracy event in partnership with the Democratic Society

This morning the Delib team, in partnership with the Democratic Society had the pleasure of welcoming a number of local individuals to Delib HQ for a unique opportunity to discuss democracy in Bristol, share past projects and explore the potential for future partnership working.

Delib event

While the group were able to ask questions and link to their experience, key attendees shared overviews of their background, favourite projects and goals for the future landscape of democracy in Bristol.

The group then discussed some of the key trends and challenges seen in the city over the last 18 months or so, with the view of identifying where networks could be bridged and new projects devised. Some key trends emerged from our discussions today;

Increasingly innovative engagement projects have been happening for years and successes should be shared

Sammy Payne from Knowle West Media Centre told us about the recent ‘Cardboard Living Room’ art exhibition, which explored innovative ways of collecting and representing data. The exhibit saw 100s of residents having fun engaging with local issues by interacting with 3D cardboard furniture connected to computers which logged their responses to survey questions. Paul Hassan from Ujima radio spoke about a recent project challenging local youth volunteers from Ujima to work in partnership with Bristol University and local politicians to curate a radio program. The project required volunteers to brush up on their knowledge of local politics and follow the mayoral election train whilst engaging their preconceptions and views around voting.

Delib event 3
Neighbor.ly discuss what they are about

Citizens are no longer just consumers, they are also producers

With the rise of crowdfunding and pledge sites, it is perhaps more possible than ever to take an existing partnership or community group and realistically garner funding to get that project off the ground without any Government involvement. In Bristol for example, partly thanks to the site Spacehive, Bristol will be showcasing their first ‘park and slide‘ through the use of a giant waterslide through the center of town.

Cities like Bristol have the opportunity to strive ahead in their own right

As European Green Capital of the year 2015, Bristol is at the forefront of European activity. Bristol City Council who were also in attendance, recently worked in partnership with Bristol’s mayor George Ferguson to run the citys’ first ideas lab through their Dialogue App. If you would like to find out more, we’ve just published this awesome guide on how to run an effective Ideas Lab.

There is an opportunity to bridge networks, the challenge just remains how

There are still some key challenges to address, namely how each of these projects can be effectively linked up via the bridging of networks. It is also worth considering how such a varied skills base can be more effectively utilised collectively perhaps via the use of a skills bank for example. The opportunities available in the next few years have only just begun, needless to say these are exciting times ahead.

Many thanks to the Democratic Society for coming all the way from their native Brighton to attend and present at the event and for Ben, Lorna and Jayne for organising.

Social media record keeping for government – is it necessary?

The increasing use of social media by government agencies has not only altered how governments and the public interact, but the way governments conduct their business.

Agencies are using social media in a variety of ways: to deliver services, communicate information, coordinate resources in emergencies, and engage citizens and stakeholders in consultation processes.

There is no question that social media helps government to govern. Where there is some cause for concern however, is that when using social media applications government decisions are often influenced by or communicated via external web-based platforms or operated by third parties, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Online engagement tools like Delib‘s Citizen Space, Dialogue App and Budget Simulator are designed to be government records-keeping compliant, with all of the content from citizens and agencies readily downloadable in a format that makes record keeping easy.

Often though, government agencies using social media or other online engagement tools find themselves in the unprecedented position where the record of government decisions may not always be held internally, but owned and hosted by others. There is no guarantee these third-party hosts will keep or allow agencies access to these records indefinitely. In fact, you can almost certainly guarantee the opposite.

As a consequence agencies need social media records management policies and systems to capture and store these records themselves, just as they would any business decision made or communicated through other channels.

This sounds simple enough, but is it? The first challenge is in ensuring that staff using social media on behalf of their agencies understand what to record, and how. The second is to ensure that agencies know which tools they can use to capture these records.

A recent social media and record keeping survey conducted by NSW State Records found that 60 per cent of respondents were not capturing records of their social media interactions. The main reasons given where that they didn’t have the tools to do so, and that they didn’t think they needed to.

Each Australian state and territory has legislation requiring government agencies to keep comprehensive records of their activities. This legislation does not define a record by its format, and applies to all public records regardless of the technology used to create or access them. As such, records generated through the use of social media should be managed as part of existing record keeping frameworks.

Under such frameworks the obligation, as set down by the Australian Public Service Commission, is that all government agencies record information that provides evidence of key activities or decisions in a way that accurately preserves their context and significance, and store these records in a way that makes them easily accessible.

The difficulty many agencies face when it comes to social media record keeping is identifying when a social media channel contains information of importance that should be a matter of public record, and what to record.

To help, each state and territory has developed social media policies and guides to help employees navigate social media in regards to existing, legislated records management processes.

The Queensland State Archives’ Public Records Brief provides a useful checklist, stating that social media tools may contain public records if:

  • they contain information applicable to the purpose and works of the public authority that is unique and not available anywhere else (e.g. not duplicated from authority websites)
  • they are a primary source of evidence of a public authority’s policies, business, mission, etc.
  • they are used in relation to the public authority’s work
  • use of social media is authorised by the public authority
  • they provide information that is required as a business need.

A presentation from the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office clarifies this further and says that social media results in state records anytime it is used for government business, offering this helpful rule of thumb:

‘Responses to social media content created by agency staff as a part of their work, such as a comment on a blog post or a reply to a Tweet, are state records.

Any response received by agency staff—particularly where the responses feed into government policy or decision-making is a record. Irrelevant, off-topic responses can be culled under normal administrative practice’.

Context is perhaps the trickiest aspect of social media record keeping. How do you capture the context of a Facebook page? How should a Twitter trend be captured to ensure it is recorded accurately and in full?

The Victorian Government Public Record Office‘s social media record keeping policy makes the point that much of this boils down to risk management, assessing how sensitive and critical the interaction, or business need to which the interaction relates, is.

From there, it is up to the agency to determine if a social media post forms an accurate record on its own or if the context of the communication can only be understood alongside other users’ interactions.

So, once it has been decided to keep a record of a given social media interaction, what should it include? The general consensus from Australian state and territory policies is that the record should contain:

  • the content of any communication sent or received
  • the context of the communication i.e. why, who authorised the message, and the message purpose
  • date and time of the interaction
  • social media channel used
  • the format the content was sent or received in, i.e. video, text, photograph
  • the name of the communication creator/sender
  • the name of the communication recipient
  • any resulting decisions or recommendations made, and
  • the name of the authorising delegate.

Tips to remember

  • Government employees are required to keep full and accurate records of activities undertaken and decisions made in the course of their work.
  • Records management legislation does not define a record by its format.
  • You are not required to keep records of every single social media interaction. Some, such as ‘Likes’ or individual Tweets will be minor and not of any consequence. However, you do need to identify high-risk business operations and assess their level of sensitivity. The higher the sensitivity, the more crucial it is to identify what records will be necessary to act as evidence for your actions and decisions.

If you’d like to learn about different social media record keeping tools, stay tuned for our post: Social media record keeping for government –how to do it well.