How to Be a More Efficient Online Social Networker (Part 1: Social Archiving)

A recent NY Times piece about tools that can help companies to manage their online social media better inspired me to start a new series of bi-weekly blog posts here about different “support” tools that can help individual users to manage and control the content of their ever-changing and ever-growing social media and networking accounts. This series of posts will go in parallel with our bi-weekly reviews of different social media and networking sites for scholars. This week’s focus will be on Social Archiving tools.

Single-source Social Media Backup Tools

If you are a light user of social media and only have one or two social media accounts, there are a few good single-source backup tools that are designed to work with specific types of social media. Some are free to use and others have a small monthly or annual fee.

  • For backing up blogs, there are web services like BlogBackupr.com and BackupMyBlog.com ($19.95 a year), or free downloadable open source applications like Blogger Backup and BlogCollector.
  • For backing up your Twitter stream, you can use online services like TweetBackup.com and BackupMy.net. If you have your own website with the PHP/MySQL support, then you can also try installing open source web applications like Tweet Nest and ThinkupApp to back up your tweets.
  • Facebook.com has its own built-in feature for downloading posts, messages, photos, videos, your friend list and other content from your profile. Just log in to your Facebook account and go to your Account settings page and then click on the “Download Your Information” link (See below). Alternatively, you can also try a MacOS application from Socialsafe.net or a FireFox addon called ArchiveFacebook.
Facebook's "BackUp Your Social Data" Option

Multiple-Sources Social Media Backup Tools

If you are a social media junkie and have multiples social media accounts across many different platforms, there are a couple of all-in-one social archiving tools at your disposal such as Socialware Sync and CloudPreservation. These tools are more robust and can automatically archive the data coming from a multitude of social media and networking platforms and accounts. Because of their richer set of features, these all-in-one social archiving tools are not free.

  • Socialware Sync costs $9.99 a month for 10 social accounts and CloudPreservation cost $15 a month to archive up to 5 accounts. The main advantage of these tools is that they help users record all of their social media activities from various websites with a unified interface in a single repository. These tools also provide a full-text search feature for the archived content which is especially useful for situations when you are trying to remember where you saw a link or an article that you wanted to read a day or two ago, but you just do not remember what social network you saw it on and when.

Overall these are great and practical tools for archiving your social data, but they are not real solutions to the issue relating to data portability and control. At best, they are stop-gap measures that emerged as a result of users’ natural desire to have more control over their own data in the age of relatively “closed” social networking sites. There is a nascent move towards more open source social networking sites like Diaspora and a joint project like Google Open Social that attempt to provide users with more control over social data (e.g., how to use, store and share it). Unfortunately, Diaspora is still just a concept and Google Open Social has mostly gone silent in the shadow of Facebook’s exponential growth.  Until the social media landscape becomes more clear and mature, I guess we just have to rely on third party tools like BlogBackupr and TweetBackup for our social archiving needs.

Happy Social Archiving!