How to Backup Your Social Media Life

Now that Facebook has made it easy to download the data you've entered on the site, what about the other social networks into which you pump photos, status updates, and messages to your friends? How can you download your stuff on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Flickr? Not all of them make it easy to get out what you put in. Here are the best ways to export and archive your social media life on the most popular networks.

Facebook

While the backup service hasn't rolled out to all Facebook accounts--it's not yet available on mine--you can visit your Account settings and click on the "Download Your Information" link to export your Facebook data. You'll receive an email with a link in it to a zip file that contains your Facebook photos, status updates, videos, messages, and friend list. A video walks you through how it works.

The disadvantage of a one-time export feature like this is that you have to repeat the process by hand on a regular basis, if you want keep your copy of your Facebook data current. That's where an automated service like Backupify comes in. Facebook users who want to set up backup and forget about it should can use Backupify to archive their Facebook data, as well as their information on other multiple social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and popular blogging services. Backupify's free personal account archives data from each of those services (from one account only).

 

Twitter

Here's a little known Twitter fact: if you've tweeted more than 3,200 times, your earliest tweets are not accessible on the web site or in search results. Poof! Gone. Twitter's API only lets you retrieve up to 3,200 of the tweets you've entered into the system. If you have tweeted 3,201 times, your first tweet is gone -- for now, anyway. Twitter has said that the cap is a temporary one in place for performance reasons, but it's freaked out packrats enough to spawn several third-party services that archive tweets.

For example, BackupMyTweets is a free Twitter backup service. Sign up for an account, and it automatically archives your tweets on a daily basis, and lets you export that data to a browser-friendly HTML file or machine-readable XML or JSON formats. Geeks who want to back up tweets to their own server should check out the promising new TweetNest software, which you install on your own web server like WordPress. I'm personally working on a beta web application that archives your tweets and Facebook posts as well called ThinkUp

The bad news: if you've tweeted over 3,200 times and you start using BackupMyTweets or a similar service now, you still won't have access to your earliest posts. (Hey Twitter, fix this pronto!)

LinkedIn

LinkedIn doesn't offer a one-click export feature like Facebook does, but you can manually export the two most important parts of your LinkedIn life: your connections and your profile.

To back up LinkedIn contacts, click on "My Connections" and then click "Export Connections." Choose either an Outlook-friendly CSV file or a Mac Address book-compatible VCF file. To save your LinkedIn profile data, click on "Edit Profile" and then click the PDF icon on the right sidebar to export it to PDF. You can also use Backupify to archive your LinkedIn data automatically.

Flickr

Unless you pay for a Flickr Pro account, you can only view the most recent 200 photos you've posted on Flickr, and the app doesn't offer an easy way to export a full backup of all the photos you've uploaded there--but several third-party tools and services do. Backupify can archive your Flickr photos automatically for you, or you can use a desktop downloader backup tool like FlickrBackup.

Picasa Web Albums

It's less popular than Facebook or Flickr to share photos, but Google's Picasa Web Albums offer complete and easy backup for your photos. The online service is a companion to the desktop Picasa software, and features two-way sync from your desktop to the cloud. (Picasa is my favorite desktop photo organizer for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and it's free.)

Simply set an album inside desktop Picasa to sync to the web, and any changes you make on the desktop will automatically sync to the online version. Any changes you or your collaborators make to the online album automatically syncs to your desktop too.

However you do or don't decide to backup your social media life, just remember: when you post something online, it may not be where you left it a few years from now.

Gina Trapani appreciates a web application that lets you easily get out the data you put into it. Follow @ginatrapani on Twitter.

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8 Comments

  • Graffi

    A general problem w most social backup services I think is that they are also cloud based. Hence, you as a user don't have real control of the content anyway. A hybrid is www.nuffly.com that uses dropbox as their storage system, which means you'll both have a cloud backup and a local backup at the same time. I've also heard of another service that stores your stuff locally only ...can't remmebr the name but it's founded by the Icon Medialab founder.

  • rkoziol7

    Well from the business point of view - if you are developing your facebook webpage for many years it is really necessary.

  • Brent W. Hopkins

    Thanks for a great article! Now that sites such as Facebook are becoming increasingly important for professional development, it is critical that we have some sort of hedge against the sometimes-arbitrary power that such sites may exercise to reconfigure, suspend, delete or otherwise interfere with accounts.

  • Ralph Paglia

    Thanks for an important article... For those who wonder WHY it is important to back up and save your social web history of blogs, posts, comments, etc., I can attest that on several occasions I have been criticized by professional colleagues for taking various pro and con stands on specific issues. Many times, people have made statements that i wrote one thing or another, and those statements were inaccurate. Having a record of what I posted served to vindicate and clarify the truth about what I had posted or tweeted. I encourage all professionals to back up their content contributions so that they are readily available, regardless of the site's retention policies.

  • Hotrao

    What is strange is the two opposing trends: we put everything online, but not relying too much on the net (or just because we feel a back up is something good) we back it up locally... ;-)

  • Kristin Dziadul

    Thanks so much for recommending Backupify in your article!

    Kristin
    Marketing Analyst
    Backupify

  • Michael Kristof

    Great tips for backing up social accounts. For Twitter, I like to use TweetReports.com to backup/archive my tweets. It's automatic and I can export to HTML, PDF, and Excel (XLS). I also like the RSS feeds (which you can also access with your Twitter account) so I can have tweets saved locally.

  • Sammy

    Hmm I never knew the importance of backup our social media file.
    Thanks for sharing this.