Monday, July 8, 2013

Backing Up Your Social Media

Social media icons Social media outlets are practically a dime a dozen. Excluding ones that are pretty stable right now (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), most of them will either fail or get bought. The problem is that your data, your content, typically dies when they do.

As an individual you might not care too much if one of the niche services fails. As a business who relies on social media, however, you should care.

Every post to Twitter or Facebook or Blogger or (insert whatever services you use here) represents effort spent to promote your brand. That effort is probably from paid staff (because nobody lets interns have the keys to their global brand, right?) and represents some cost as a result. Cultivated Facebook campaigns, Twitter conversations, Pinterest boards, all represent a combination of your effort and community participation.

When a service goes away, so does the money and effort you spent to cultivate it. So does the community feedback that demonstrates to others that yours is a good brand. So does any SEO benefit it may be giving you. So does the content you created.

I regularly ask social media practitioners how they back up all the data they post to these services and it almost always results in blank stares.

Most organizations make some effort to back up their marketing or sales materials, in addition to their intellectual property, but for some reason social media is left out in the cold.

I'll cover some examples of what I have done and do, along with some tips on how you can plan for your own back-up.

Twitter

Twitter allows you to produce an archive of all your tweets whenever you request it. What you will get is a link to download a ZIP archive which contains a completely stand-alone web site that allows you to see all your tweets. You can use this site right from your computer with no internet connection.

I suggest taking it one step further and creating a folder on your public web site so you and all your team (and even the general public if you want to share the address) can access all of your tweets at any time from any where. This method will also allow you to search all your tweets instead of being limited by Twitter's own date restrictions on searches. For example, I have my Twitter archive at AdrianRoselli.com/Tweets.

Tweets in the archive contain the full content of the original tweet, but do not contain any of the replies to, favorites of, or re-tweets of your tweets. They do, however, link you directly to the tweet at Twitter.com so you can get all that information.

As part of your job as a social media manager I recommend you set up a calendar reminder for the first of each month (or whenever works for you) to download and store your Twitter archive.

Facebook

Facebook also allows you to create an archive of everything you have posted, including photos, videos, wall posts, messages and chat conversations along with the names of your Facebook friends. It does not include comments you've left on the posts of others. An expanded archive option also provides historic information such as your IP addresses for when you have logged into Facebook.

As such, I recommend against posting your entire Facebook archive to your web site as it will probably contain information that you have opted to not share with the general public (especially since it can also contain other people's private information).

I should note that I am talking about a personal profile here, not a business profile. So far I have been unable to find information on how to archive a business/organization profile. Suggestions are welcome.

[Your Blog Here]

Quite a lot of social media involves maintaining a blog. This blog may exist on any one of many platforms, including one you've built yourself. For this example, I am talking about a blog that you host elsewhere, probably for free, such as an option from Wordpress or Blogger, among others.

In an ideal scenario you will have secured a blog sub-domain, such as blog.adrianroselli.com. This is the first step to having some portability and control should your blogging platform go away. It won't be so easy to get adrianroselli.blogger.com if Blogger goes away, mostly because I don't own (and likely would be unable to purchase) the domain blogger.com.

If your blog platform does go away and you have some advance notice, you have some options to get your content before it is lost. Some platforms will offer you a way to get all your content out and other platforms may offer you a way to import that content. If your failing platform doesn't offer an archive, you can always spider the content using a tool like HTTrack.

Ideally you'll want to recreate your content on your new blogging platform, so make sure you also recreate the same page addresses (most of the blogging tools allow you to create a custom page address, though it will be a manual process). In this scenario, any inbound links won't be broken. For those cases where you cannot replicate the page addresses, explore options to create custom redirections with your new blog provider or, if it's on your own server, through server-level mappings.

Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and Other Services

I have used many services over the years, in particular services targeted at image sharing. I have used Brightkite, Plyce, Picplz, Posterous and am now on to Tumblr. With the exception of Tumblr (so far), they have all gone away. I haven't lost my images, however. In the case of Brightkite they made everything available for download for quite some time and in a structured format. Picplz offered the same, but not until many users raised a stink and followed its founder to his next gig to push their point. Posterous made its site available as a static HTML archive.

Had these sites not made the content available, however, I still had a plan to get everything out. I simply spidered my profile page for each site using a tool (HTTrack again) that converts it all to static HTML. In short, I captured every page and every image to a format that I could simply post on my own site or view on my local computer (as I did with Picplz and Posterous). While I cannot replicate the old addresses (similar to the case with a blog domain), I can at least make my content available should I want to reference it again.

When Pinterest or Instagram or Tumblr or insert-service-here announces it is going away, I will simply fire up the same tool and begin my archive process. Each service may very well offer a tool to do this, but I'd rather make sure I have it just in case they don't. In addition, sometimes it's more work to process a stack of JSON files than it is to simply spider the site and post it somewhere on your own site.

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1 comment:

  1. This comment is from Michael Harris. The Google/Blogger commenting feature didn't work for him, so I am posting on his behalf (with his permission):

    I think you make some good points with regards backing up social media sites. It is important that organisations pay as much attention to material posted on third-party sites, as to their own sites. Unfortunately, they don't often pay attention to their own sites, with information disappearing, being moved without a forwarding address and so on.

    I do want to add slightly to your post as well. As well as the technical aspects of making sure to get the information out of the third-party site in the first place, there are also other potential issues. These include legal, e.g.:
    * privacy;
    * does the third-party site actually give permission to archive your comments, or do they claim copyright, etc.;
    * is the design copyrighted or otherwise restricted. Technical issues include:
    * is it an exact copy including formatting, or just the text, being archived;
    * are you storing the original URL and published date, and if so, how?

    Reasons an organisation may want to archive their social media comments etc. include:
    * legal reasons, they can provide exactly what their offer (or whatever) said in a potential future court case
    * historical, in ten years time they can do a "and here's what our website looked like, and and here's what we posted on that quaint MyBook site"

    As with many things, ultimately it comes down to the organisation, but I feel that the exact same reasons an organisation should keep archival copies of its websites applies to material hosted externally. And I do think that organisations should keep archival copies of their websites (even if it is just an HTTrack run through the site). (And to toot my own horn, I'm available to consult on these and many other issues.)

    Thanks, Michael.

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