I have had a love/hate relationship with Facebook over time.  I joined the day they opened it up for “the public”, and I’ve participated to various degrees over time.  My friend list includes a variety of people, from business, social media to high school and college friends and the Moms I hang out with, along with my kid’s teachers, along with family members.  It’s a great place to get caught up with people without a one to one email, send congrats on that new baby (Again, all the best DJ!), send birthday wishes and more.  Yet, I have long worried about people and businesses deciding to use Facebook as a replacement for having their own web page.

Today, I’ve gotten repeated notices that Facebook is down for maintenance, and I missed it.  It’s become the way I communicate with others on certain projects, check in with friends and the like.  Yet this underlined what I have long believed- that you need to regularly back up your Facebook data to your own computer, and never forget that we are not Facebook’s customers, but their product.  Facebook is essentially the largest aggregate database on consumers and their preferences the world has seen, and it uses this data to sell ads to its true customers.  While we all use Facebook in our own unique way, Facebook uses us as marketing fodder.  A quid pro quo, so to speak.

In doing a search to find out what’s going on, I found out that there was a Facebook outage last week as well, that also slowed down major media and retail sites. This brings the obvious question: What happens if Facebook disappears? What happens if it goes the way of My Space? The need to build and create communities won’t go away, but another platform will surely be borne from its ashes. Facebook shows us that we do love being in touch with friends in this low-mutual responsibility sort of way- it’s a light touch that’s keeps us in the know without being burdensome. It lets us time shift our socializing and feel a bit closer to folks we might otherwise not talk to as often. But if it goes away, it will take tons of time to rebuild our networks and portfolios on another system, unless we’re good stewards now and keep our data saved, backed up and preserved for the inevitable jump to another platform, some day.

I often tell my clients and groups I speak to that while Facebook and other social networks are awesome, it’s the contacts and relationships you build that are really important, and that’s why managing your database is critical.  It’s why owning your own website and domain are so important.  You have control over those assets, and not over third party sites.  And as we’re seeing today, these sites can go out at any time, for any reason, changing the way you need to do business, just like any other outage.  The question is, are you prepared?