The challenge

Capturing and storing social media data

Libraries are increasingly using social media channels to deliver services to the community. These channels reach a large and diverse audience and can be used to announce events, share information and gather feedback about how public libraries can better serve the community. This vast amount of shared information makes social media a treasure trove of data that is of interest to future historians, as well as those gathering feedback on how to improve existing library services.

Social media however is instant and fleeting in the online world, and sometimes the level of engagement is so large that manual social media monitoring and archiving is not possible. So how can we capture this information?

Our response

Vizie for libraries

We have created Vizie for Libraries, a tool that captures public social media and then archives it. The data is available through search, analysis and reporting functionality.

Vizie interface graph showing clusters of topics in public Twitter content.

Vizie interface graph showing clusters of topics in public Twitter content.

Vizie for Libraries can help librarians and archivists make the most of social media, through providing:

  • archival services on secure CSIRO servers located in Australia
  • user interfaces designed with participation by staff at the State Library of NSW to view data
  • feedback on query effectiveness to minimise the collection of non-relevant content
  • access to a historical collection of Twitter content from July 2013 onwards
  • logging of provenance metadata for data collection
  • automatic mechanisms for assigning category labels to data
  • data export mechanisms to use the data with other tools and archival facilities.

The results

Capturing social media data for the 2015 NSW State Election

We worked with the State Library of NSW to help capture digital conversations on hot topics relevant to the state. Using Vizie for Libraries they collect content about the economy, big and small personalities, fundraising, the media and a broad range of local and global issues.

They also capture and document events of historical significance, such as the 2015 NSW State Election, for which they captured and archived publicly available Twitter activity, including the tweets of the majority of candidates running – over 200 Twitter handles. The collection also covered discussions about political parties and interest groups and tracked topical issues such as #csg and #polesandwires. Over 500,000 election-based tweets were captured and preserved using Vizie for Libraries and the State Library of NSW’s data collection framework.

This digital record will add to the library's extensive election archive which dates back to the 1840s and 50s. This is full of artefacts such as newspaper clippings, electoral flyers and how to vote cards which show how political campaigns, the act of running for candidacy and voting has changed over the decades.

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