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.
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).
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 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.
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.