Dropbox is indispensable for many businesses for file storage and document sharing. Yet many organizations need better alternatives for sharing visual media assets like photo and video files. The Dropbox cloud storage system is easy to use, but treats all files the same way. It wasn’t built for media, which in large volumes is much harder to identify without looking at the file itself.
Some enterprises use Dropbox to share final versions of media projects, but when it comes to continuous sharing of dozens or hundreds of media assets over time, even Dropbox recognizes it falls short.
Dropbox Alternatives for Media Need Metadata
When you’re browsing or searching for a file in Dropbox or just about any hierarchical file tree, you’re relying on folder and filenames to identify what you’re seeking. You might also be using file type or date. This metadata is critical to find what you need.
When it comes to photos or videos, you have the same metadata, but except for the date it’s almost useless. When your camera sequentially numbers photos or videos, e.g., img_00302.jpg, img_0033.jpg, etc., filenames don’t differentiate. All file types are the same. In any folder, it’s impossible to tell what media is good, bad or duplicative unless those files are individually named or moved to another labeled folder by an administrator or the folder owner. The only way to evaluate is to be able to see every photo, and although possible in the Dropbox desktop and mobile app, they are not designed for that function.
The good thing is that additional metadata can be associated with a media file and live and travel that with that asset. This is metadata beyond file system data. This is how other media sharing platforms enable users to filter and search files for specific files with a great degree of precision and specificity. For example, you might want to search for images and videos that feature a specific person, place, or even logo across a set of images. Or perhaps filter a collection of videos by location or contiguous photos taken at an event. With Dropbox, the only way to filter media files is by date or by file name. Because there is no metadata or tags with media in Dropbox, it’s difficult to find, curate, organize or locate the right media assets.
The primary use for Dropbox isn’t visual media like photos and videos, which is why the lack of metadata is not important for most users. But a Dropbox alternative for media sharing is very much needed for organizations sharing media because life without metadata is inconvenient and inefficient.
Sharing Media With Groups Using Dropbox
Dropbox sharing is pretty easy. Grab a link with the appropriate permissions, and then email it to people or text it out. They get an invitation that they can respond to, or not.
Or, alternatively, share the folder directly by adding users to see the folder, but they will only get notified through Dropbox.
If you’re going to be sending a folder full of photos or videos on a continuous basis, neither solution is great. Users might see a single reminder to view the media, but they won’t be notified if you add additional media to that folder. And, you don’t want to continue to create new folders and share again and again everytime you add a new asset.
Over time, you’ll be sending to larger email lists and bouncing back and forth between multiple Dropbox folders, emails or texts. And users will give up on keeping track of that web of shared links. And, recipients still have that choppy, non-visual experience when searching or browsing.
It gets more difficult when each recipient needs to find a distinct photo or video (remember, there’s little metadata in Dropbox so filtering or searching is limited). Doing this requires sending a unique link and email to every individual recipient, or renaming each individual media file with descriptors that the searcher could remember. Sharing new content on a regular basis is another reason organizations that are proactively sharing media need an alternative to Dropbox.
Publishing Photos and Videos to Social Media
When an organization shares photos and videos, it’s often with the intent to activate the recipients and prompt them to publish them to their personal or corporate social media accounts. The organization really wants that media to be published on different digital channels, typically on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or YouTube.
This is another drawback to using Dropbox for media sharing; there are many steps a recipient must take to go from a Dropbox link to a social media post. That’s why an alternative to Dropbox for media sharing is necessary, if the goal is to have users share content. In fact, Dropbox recognizes this shortcoming and has built integrations into enterprise enterprise social media management tools like Sprout Social. That API enables purpose-built social media sharing platforms like Greenfly to access the content stored in an enterprise Dropbox folder. These systems take those files, add metadata so they’re searchable, enable admins to organize them, and distribute them in a visual fashion — just like an additional camera roll on a person’s mobile phone. Mobile apps like Greenfly also make it easy to publish any media asset to any social media network as a post, story, or video.
The need for an alternative to Dropbox is compounded when sharing to social media is a business mandate and needs to be tracked and enforced. Those functions are virtually impossible with Dropbox. A social media administrator may ask a group to share one or more photos from a Dropbox folder to Facebook, but tracking that action requires going to each individual’s Facebook page, becoming their friend, and manually paging through their feed to identify the photo or photos.
However, measurement and confirmation of social media sharing is possible with media distribution platforms. Additionally, these platforms enable social media managers to suggest specific photos, providing specific description language, hashtags, and even instructions that make it easy for anyone to post right from their phone. For instance, Greenfly has trackable share requests that attach the photo or video, and a feature called ‘suggested posts’ which do exactly that: suggest post media and language for social media publishing.
Media Sharing Metrics With Dropbox
Dropbox offers some analytics and metrics about files you share, but you’ll need an alternative software platform to Dropbox if metrics about sharing media are important. For Dropbox ‘Professional’ customers, stats are available for views of files and downloads. These metrics are visible in aggregate or on the individual file level. But the metrics are only available for 90 days and there is nothing beyond downloads and views. That may be enough for some, even with the short time window. However, Dropbox competitors that specialize in media sharing provide more information about file sharing, access, mobile downloads and social media posts. If someone shares a photo or video to social media, that’s valuable to the organization. Especially when you can see stats on engagement, too. It’s helpful to look at content metrics from the folder or gallery level, especially when planning, evaluating, and reporting on events or campaigns. Data for media sharing in Dropbox is not a focus for them. There is nothing resembling a dashboard or data analysis. So if metrics are vital for you, a Dropbox alternative is necessary.
Sharing Media With Dropbox Means Multiple Channels
When sharing media with Dropbox, you’re not really using Dropbox to share the media. Dropbox hosts the media, but the sharing usually happens with an email, a Slack message, or a text that includes the Dropbox URL. Because of that, most Dropbox users end up with endless emails with links, and a lot of links to manage. The Dropbox app on your phone is a directory, but if different people are sharing different media on different links, all those folder names will be different and hard to navigate. That complexity makes it tough to keep track of what media is on which link and which photo or video is on what folder.
This also requires relying on recipients to check their email or Slack to get the URL in the first place. Sharing media assets is really much different than sharing text files. Most of the time, people want visual media to be organized in collections, like galleries or albums. But if somebody needs a single photo or video, that means either they have to visually page through a folder of images, or find a specific URL. At even a small scale, that business problem requires a more advanced solution than Dropbox can offer.
The Challenge of Communication Within Dropbox
Sharing is a key component of organizational collaboration around media. But so is communication. Dropbox is primarily for storage and file hosting, and the platform offers very little for two-way or group communication. Again, Dropbox recognizes this shortcoming and turns to alternatives like iMessage, Slack and Facebook Messenger integrations. Dropbox also offers the ability to leave comments on files. But almost all communication and collaboration happens outside of Dropbox.
There are alternatives to Dropbox that have communication built-in. This is where conversations can take place about the visual media, about how to use content, and about everyday projects or events. Instructions can be sent with media, and standardized metatags can be added to media, so each asset becomes a dynamic visual object. So much messaging happens outside of Dropbox, and it’s valuable to have that communication take place on the same platform as the media sharing.
Sharing Media With Dropbox for Use on Mobile Devices
A lot of media sharing (a lot of everything) happens on mobile devices. While Dropbox has a mobile app, it doesn't have a purpose-built experience for browsing or searching videos or photos. When you imagine accessing and browsing media, many people think of Apple Photos or Google Photos, depending on the type of phone they have. Both of these media management solutions are easy to use, enable filtering and sorting, album creation and easy upload and download. They are native to their respective mobile device’s camera roll. However, neither of these are enterprise products. Camera rolls are simply not capable of sharing in a business setting, or exchanging media between dozens of users. They are geared towards family or single person use.
This ‘camera-roll’ experience is not the experience that Dropbox delivers, and there are alternatives that make a visual mobile experience far better. Users want the same native experience as browsing a camera roll, and that’s what an alternative like Greenfly offers. A lot of work happens on mobile, so when sharing visual media specifically, it should deliver an optimized mobile experience.
An Alternative to Dropbox That’s Built for Sharing Media
We love Dropbox. It’s a great solution for file sharing and cloud storage. We couldn’t live without it for syncing files between computers, between home and office and while traveling. We use Dropbox a lot, and we’re aware of the shortcomings when it comes to media assets because our customers have come to us for an alternate solution. They’ve outgrown Dropbox for media. Social media and media asset exchange is a critical business issue for them — they depend on sharing media with customers, partners, ambassadors and influencers. Large groups who all need real-time access to media files.
These enterprises organizations recall the issues that made sharing photos and videos with Dropbox difficult, if not downright impossible. They need group management — Greenfly does that better than anyone. Metadata is essential — Greenfly preserves and reads it. They need sharing to social, share requests, messaging, and stats. Dropbox remains integral for many Greenfly customers, too. It’s their cloud storage platform, a clearinghouse for any and all media, but they use the Dropbox API to pull these files into Greenfly to organize, label and share that media with the world.
The telltale sign is that even a case study that Dropbox has on their website, Lonely Planet, notes that Lonely Planet uses their own home-built tools for storing and curating media assets. That’s just not what Dropbox was designed for. It’s time to look into Dropbox alternatives.