From city governments all the way up to the president of the United States, social media has become an important tool for policymakers and government agencies to reach constituents directly. On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, citizens can now find vital information about policy changes and ongoing government happenings.
But public officials using social media in this way is a relatively new practice. When former President Barack Obama actively started using Twitter in 2008, there wasn’t a way to add it to the public record or create a searchable archive for internal review and compliance. Manually retrieving posts across various platforms is time consuming.
“Unlike traditional public records (like email and website records) which agencies have full control over, social media records exist on third-party platforms that agencies can’t control,” Anil Chawla tells Hypepotamus.
“Every public agency using social media must figure out how to archive records in order to comply with public records laws,” he says.
While working as a software engineer at IBM in 2007, Chawla dove into the world of social media and started exploring ideas for apps. His first Twitter app saw moderate success, but after six months, he stumbled upon the email archiving industry and “saw that email archiving companies were starting to sell the ability to archive social media, too.”
Chawla founded ArchiveSocial in 2011 to help cities, schools, federal government, and other agencies remain transparent while engaging with their citizens.
The startup connects directly to the agencies’ social networks using an API, and captures social media posts in close to real-time. Once the information has been recorded, agencies can search their social media content, even posts that have been edited or deleted.
The archived records can also be replayed in the chronological order in which they happened, in the event of a lawsuit.
“Social media platforms frequently change and add new features, and ensuring accurate capture of social media is a constantly evolving challenge,” says Chawla. ArchiveSocial differs from other archival options as it saves not only the user’s public posts, but also all public and private messaging.
In 2017, after a cold email sent by Chawla, the White House Digital Transition team tapped the Durham, North Carolina-based startup to consolidate the social media records of the Obama administration, the first to see substantial social media usage by officials.
The result of the partnership is a searchable public archive of over 250,000 social media records across 100-plus White House social media profiles. These records include former President Barack Obama’s Twitter account and former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Instagram feed.
ArchiveSocial functions on a SaaS revenue model. Chawla says that, though they’ve never formally sought venture capital, he couldn’t miss out on the chance to pitch AOL co-founder Steve Case back in 2015 during the Rise of the Rest tour. They took home $100,000 after winning the pitch competition.
“We’ve generated revenue since day one and continue to grow rapidly based on organic revenue. Raising money is not entirely off the table but is frankly not a focus for us,” says Chawla.
Growing a startup in a relatively niche market can come with recruiting challenges, but Chawla says that by focusing on hiring good talent and nurturing the culture personally, they’ve seen good retention. He sits down with every new employee to “walk them through our company history and values.”
“One of my goals as an entrepreneur is to make working at ArchiveSocial a life-changing experience for everyone who decides to join us. We’re lucky that we’ve had tremendous support and visibility in our local community, and amazing employees who continue to refer their peers to come join us,” says Chawla.
ArchiveSocial has grown at a high double-digit rate year-over-year with regards to revenue and customer count — they have nearly 2,000 customers today across the country, including school districts, city governments and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The company has grown to more than 60 employees in less than three years and will be releasing more product capabilities over the next few months.