Durham civic tech startup will help President Obama preserve eight years of social media activity in first-of-its-kind White House social media archive.
The White House wasn’t necessarily on the list of potential customers when Archive Social started up in Durham four years ago.
Though the startup was building a social media archiving tool it thought was superior to every other option out there for cities and governments, it seemed hard to believe that the President of the United States might use its services.
But that was before a social media archive became an important tool for preserving the Obama administration’s legacy for decades to come, and before the president’s social media team made headlines for plans to make that archive available to the public.
Today, the mostly-bootstrapped Durham startup of nearly 25 employees announces the launch of the first-ever social media archive for The White House.
Starting this afternoon, any tweet, post or photo shared over the past eight years by about 100 White House affiliated social media accounts, including those of President Barack Obama, are easily available and searchable at ObamaWhiteHouseArchive.social, a site set up by the Durham startup.
It’s a pretty big deal for a small but fast-growing startup.
“Given that this is what we do and we predominantly do it for government, there is no better case study than the White House using our technology,” Chawla says.
Here’s how the deal went down:
Founder Anil Chawla saw the buzz last summer about preserving social media records and jumped at the opportunity to pitch The White House. An Archive Social sales person shared with him a White House connection made at the National Information Officers Association conference in Nashville in August. In a cold email to the President’s deputy chief digital officer, Chawla took a different approach from most sales calls.
“The key message was ‘This is not a revenue opportunity for us,'” Chawla says. “We believe in what you’re doing and we believe we have the most capable technology to make this possible for you.”
He explains the move in detail here:
Chawla heard back from the officer quickly. He soon found himself with the chance to preserve more than a quarter million tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, Tumblr posts, Vine videos for the federal government’s highest office. It required a lot of staff resources, Chawla says, but the investment of time was well worth the impact it will have on his business and on the United States.
Social media archives have proven helpful in some serious situations. Chawla says that the city of Dallas drove people to its searchable public social media archive after an officer-involved-shooting last summer. It helped to preserve staff resources in a trying time for the city.
Archive Social expects to have served more than 1,000 customers by the middle of this year. They range from small towns to very large metro areas to The White House.
“We expect this will bring a lot of attention to us from customer prospects and the general public,” Chawla says. “Awareness is always good for a small company looking to grow fast.”
Archive Social graduated from American Underground in 2016. Photo of the team saying goodbye is above.