Many enterprises and professionals are using Twitter* for official business. One local government example is the City of Raleigh, North Carolina. The Raleigh municipal government appears to be using Twitter to broadcast public service messages.
For legal purposes, many professionals and enterprises are wise to archive some or all of their Twitter (or Foursquare) communications. Records may be needed for such purposes as subpoenas, e-discovery (EDD), public records law and the like.
How does one record Twitter for long-term storage? In practice it is difficult for an enterprise (or an individual professional) to manage electronic records –-Twitter or otherwise -- for long periods of time. This difficulty motivates records managers to focus their attention and resources.
I argue that electronic mail should normally be the cornerstone for archiving electronic business records. My feeling is that e-mail is the first digital place the legal system expects to find important records. When records managers tackle electronic records, e-mail is the logical first place for to focus attention and resources. Every business person has an e-mail account, through which he or she exchanges important messages.
Thus, as a business professional adopts social media like Twitter and Facebook for serious communications, a practical approach to archiving those communications is to capture them in the professional's email account. Services like Twitter and Facebook come and go. They are hot this year, but something else may replace them next year. The professional's email account, however, is fairly permanent and stable. The email account is the unified, timeless place to store all important communications.
I've previously suggested how to use a business email account to capture Facebook messages. Native Facebook provides tools for exchanging many kinds of FB messages via email.
I've looked for similar tools at Twitter.com. However, native Twitter does not appear to support email as much as FB does. Instead, Twitter supports SMS*. SMS is normally associated with cell phones.
Twitter's support for SMS gives me ideas for simple record-keeping. It is relatively easy to integrate SMS with email for the purpose of capturing messages in an e-mail account. I offer some simple examples here. I'll bet even better ways exist.
For some professionals, the easiest way to submit a tweet* to Twitter via SMS, while also saving a copy in a business email account, is with a cell phone. Many cell phone services such as Sprint allow the user to send an SMS message to a mobile number (such as the mobile number that Twitter supports) and, at the same time, to an e-mail address. Accordingly, a user could use SMS on his Sprint phone to send a tweet to Twitter, with a copy to his business e-mail account, where it can be archived like all his other email.
In the alternative, the professional can subscribe to a paid service like ipipi.com to act as a gateway between email and SMS.
If the professional uses Microsoft Outlook for e-mail, she could exchange SMS message from her email client using the Outlook Mobile Service. The service works via an SMS account with a provider like your cell phone carrier, and thus might involve special charges. Using the Outlook Mobile Service, the user could send an SMS tweet to Twitter, and her Outlook account would keep a record just as it normally would keep a record of an outgoing email.
Here is a screenshot of a tweet sent from a Sprint phone.
What do you think of these ideas, Gentle Reader?
Update: Apparently there is a twitter gadget for gmail that will store your tweets in gmail so they can be archived like email.
Another update: Apparently Twitter, and search engines that search Twitter, lose much of the tweet conversation quickly. Although Twitter keeps tweets indefinitely, it is unable to search for features like hashtags, which organize ongoing conversations, such as #iranelection. Similarly, LinkedIn seems not to display public conversations more than a couple of weeks.
Third update: The Broward County Sheriff's Department has created its own Twitter-like service, called CyberVisor, to broadcast messages about crimes and emergencies as they develop. Presumably the Sheriff's Department can control and record this service better than something on Twitter.
Mr. Wright teaches e-discovery, records management and cyber security law at the SANS Institute.
* What is Twitter? Twitter is a popular social media service that allows users to broadcast and read short messages. The little messages are normally stored on Twitter’s web site (in the form of a so-called micro-blog), and are often transmitted to other places such as cell phones and widgets on other web pages.
* What is SMS? SMS means short message service. It is best known as the standard for exchanging text messages among cellular and mobile phones.
* What is a tweet? A tweet is a short text message, no more than 140 characters, broadcast or micro-blogged from a user's account in Twitter.