What to Do When a Social Media Star Collapses

The death of Vine spurs questions about what to do when the platforms we love fail. For government agencies, the answer is rooted in policy and public records law.

by / January 18, 2017
Vine came into the world with a roar, but left with a whimper that equated to some rearranging of its business strategy and a newish, but much more limited application. What has been described as the “death” of the platform raises some important questions for those in the public sector. Namely, what do you do when a social network withers and dies?
 
While you’d struggle to find a government agency that has relied on Vine as a mission-critical social asset, the idea that the social channels we are all so comfortable with could one day close their doors leaves more questions than answers. Depending on your state and particularly your agency’s policy, the untimely expiration of a social channel may not be enough of an excuse not to have your organization’s online correspondence disappear completely.
 
“Government agencies really should have a social media exit strategy and, of course, that needs to include archival of content if they haven’t been thinking of it along the way,” Government Social Media Founder Kristy Dalton said. “As they are hearing that a social network is shutting down, they need to make every effort to archive what they had on there.”
 
As she sees it, archiving counts as anything from screenshotting engagements and content to having it catalogued by a third-party company.
 
As the formal Dear John note for Vine read Jan. 16, the company isn’t ditching all of the data and starting over completely. Users’ catalog of 6.5-second videos will remain available with the download of a newly configured camera app that will allow posts directly to parent company platform Twitter, or will allow videos to be saved to the mobile device they were filmed on.
 
“In the case of Vine, we are talking about looping videos, and for most government agencies, I think it was more of a ‘nice to have’ as opposed to a critical way to get messages out,” said Dalton, who is also a Government Technology contributor.
 
This is a significant departure from the early days of shoot and share on the Vine platform. 
 
Regardless of how Vine, a subsidiary of Twitter, has handled its gradual fade into obscurity, Dalton warned that not all platforms are likely to follow suit when it comes to turning off the lights. The need for consistent and well established processes for content retention must be adhered to — especially in government. 
 
Dalton also recommended, “doing a sweep of their platform, including their website, just to make sure there are no references to important content on the platform that has been shut down and, of course, to determine which platform can take its place if they determine it’s necessary.”
 
Despite Vine’s soft closure and reformation into a new Twitter tool, Dalton said many in the social media management space are concerned about the ever-circulating rumors of Twitter's failing financial health. Though President-elect Donald Trump’s prolific use of the platform during the 2016 election, and to present, seem to have dampened the media focus on the company’s future, Dalton said the people in her circles are concerned about its future.
 
Unlike Facebook, the platform's algorithms do not re-sort content for optimized viewing. This makes Twitter a go-to social network for crisis management and direct, in-the-moment engagement.
 
When it comes to social media for government, Dalton said the best bet is to retain your data and always have an escape plan.
Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.