If you listen long enough, you’ve heard the horror stories. “I had five years worth of pictures on Facebook and they deactivated my account and now they’re gone”, “someone hacked my Tumblr and now I lost two years worth of writing”, “someone reported my YouTube account and now six months of songs have disappeared”, all variations on the same theme — you cannot trust the ultimate safety of your data to a social media network. Now don’t me wrong, I love and use and in fact trust a lot of social media (some more than others, admittedly), but I also know that things like pictures and writing that are important to me and difficult or impossible to replace need to be better protected than what the Terms of Service and business practices of any social media network can offer. Not only that, but whatever I create should be a reflection of my ideas, not of whatever the popularity algorithm of a social media network is at the moment. Your business content is at least as important as vacation photos or personal musings, so it’s critical that you maintain control of your content even while using social media to help distribute it to your audience.

Link to your own site instead of posting long form or media content directly to Facebook or Twitter

Social media is great, but ultimately you want to get people from their Facebook or Twitter timeline to your website where they can get the most available information about your brand and hopefully do business with you. Any long form content that you take the time to create should ultimately reside where you can manage it and where it can be continually used as part of your ongoing content and overall marketing strategy. Not that Facebook is going to disappear any time soon, but there were people who said that about Friendster once upon a time, too.

Keep backups

Your content took lots of resources to create. It’s the result of hours and hours of effort from talented people you respect and very real cost to the business in terms of both labor expenses and other resources. Do not leave its long term safety in the hands of any single entity, especially not one outside your organization, whether it’s a social media network or a web host or a cloud service. This is another case where one of the ultimate rules of data security is true — it’s only a backup if it’s in more than one place. Ideally content created and then distributed via social media is also backed up remotely to your web host or a cloud service and locally, so that regardless of your location and the status of your local network, you should be able to get access to any of that content. Social media networks go down, they suffer security breaches, they get bought out or go under, and it’s important that you can maintain access to your content regardless so that you can adjust and distribute it through another channel if need be.

Avoid fitting your content directly to algorithms that will inevitably change

Whether it’s Facebook’s Edge Rank, your latest Klout score, Twitter trending topics, or any other similar social media popularity measurement, it’s important to understand how they work but to not get caught up in crafting every last bit of your content to maximize the idiosyncrasies of the algorithm of the moment. Because the way these ranks are measured changes frequently, you’re inadvertently putting an expiration date on your content if you’re too focused on exploiting every small variable. Create relevant, interesting content and make what small adjustments you can to optimize it for the social media channels you use without sacrificing the core of what you want the content to be.

The most important thing to take away from all of this is that ultimately the responsibility for your content lies with you, no matter what social media channels you may use. Don’t let any social media network determine the form your content takes or control you or your customers’ access to that content. Social media is a great tool, but it is just that, one tool of many at your disposal. We’ve all probably heard some social media “where did my stuff go??” horror stories. Care to share in the comments?