Archiving Facebook, Twitter and Other Social Media Sites

In our advice about planning your digital legacy, we talk at length about usernames, passwords and wishes. Leaving behind detailed instructions for accessing your online accounts can save your heirs a good deal of frustration. But this approach assumes that the service is still available when your heirs go looking. Moreover, it assumes that you’re willing to share access to an account. It seems perfectly reasonable that you might want to share the content, but not grant access. While we still think securely sharing your passwords is a good idea, it’s also important to archive copies of your content. When you create a copy, you’re almost doubling the chances that the content will continue to exist. To quote the saying from Library Science, LOCKSS: Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe.

Making backup or archival copies is relatively easy when files are stored locally on your computer, but when they’re stored online at sites like Facebook and Twitter, things become a bit dicey. To help you through the various complexities of archiving your social media content, here are three resources you should check out.

Fast Company: How to Backup Your Social Media Life

Fast Company has a great article that covers Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Picasa Web Albums. It’s definitely worth checking out. In fact, I wanted to write an article just like this, but it’s much easier to give you a link.

Resources from Your Digital Afterlife

We put together a list of social media backup tools for our book, Your Digital Afterlife. We include tools for Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs.

Internet Archive: Archive-It

The Internet Archive has a subscription-based tool that can be used to create an archive copy of most any website, including social media sites. They have specific instructions for Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Due to the complex setup and the HTML output, I would only recommend this option to advanced users.

My Approach

I’m primarily concerned with the content I have at Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. I periodically download all of my data from Facebook using their download feature. It delivers a nice set of HTML files that you can open in a web browser.

For Twitter, I’m quite fond of Tweetbook, which delivers PDF and XML downloads of your last 3,200 tweets. The limit is due to the Twitter API and is easily circumvented as long as you start making downloads before you reach the 3,200 mark. The most recent time I used Tweetbook, I did have to wait about 45 seconds for some users to log out of the site before I could use it. It seems that they’re limiting the number of active users to keep within the rate limits of the Twitter API.

Finally, I keep a local copy of everything I share on Flickr. In many respects, I consider Flickr to be a backup location for the photos I value most.

Once the Twitter and Facebook downloads are on my computer, they become a part of my regular backup process along with all of the photos I’m sharing on Flickr. After all, having more copies is usually better.

Thumbnail by dolescum on Flickr.

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5 Responses to Archiving Facebook, Twitter and Other Social Media Sites

  1. Dan Flannery March 21, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Hi Evan,

    Thanks for this post. Additionally, users can review Arkovi for social media archiving and compliance. Our services are available at While our primary focus is financial services, we also have clients in local and state government that use Arkovi as well.

    Thanks again,

  2. Evan Carroll March 21, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    Thanks for the comment. I’ll look into Arkovi.

  3. Michael Riedyk April 1, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Great overview, however there is an important difference between archiving social media and websites for personal use and for Corporations/Government. The main difference is that corporations/government need to archive for accountability purposes: to meet regulatory compliance (like FINRA, SEC, SOX) or for litigation protection.

    When updating records retention strategies, companies should carefully consider the requirements for digital evidence in court, to ensure that their electronic files will be admissible in e-discovery or litigation cases. The Federal Rules of Evidence require a digital timestamp and digital signature to prove the authenticity and integrity of electronic files presented in court.

    Companies should also ensure that their social media pages are preserved in their native format, with the ability to “re-play” as if they were live. This should include video, links, Flash, and other features because simple screenshots are not accepted in regulatory situations. You must be able to prove the exact content of your social media pages from any given date.

    I wrote several blogposts about this specific topic:

  4. Evan Carroll April 1, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    Thanks for sharing that information. As our site is about personal archives and legacy, the post wasn’t targeted at a corporate audience, but I agree that the difference is important. It looks like you have some great content on archiving as business records. Thanks again for sharing.

  5. Mike April 26, 2011 at 8:22 am #

    Social Media Legacy is a great site that simply lets you create your own social media living will that specifys directives such as what to do with personal content after you die, or whether you’d like your account converted into a memorial or just deactivated.

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