Social Media Data Collection: Gathering The Data You Need For Marketing Research
Table of Contents
Social media data is essential for marketing today. The social media landscape is still growing, with 59% of the world using some form of social media for an average of 2 hours and 29 minutes daily. Collecting social media data allows companies to gain a deeper understanding of their customers’ needs and interests, craft more effective campaigns, measure the success of those campaigns, and better optimize their strategies over time. By understanding consumer behavior and preferences, businesses can identify opportunities to engage with their target audience in meaningful ways.
With access to the right social media data collection tools or techniques, marketers can aggregate information from multiple sources across various platforms. Analyzing the acquired data helps them create comprehensive profiles on specific audiences, so they know who they’re targeting with each campaign — and how best to reach them.
Social media data mining also lets you track brand sentiment over time by monitoring conversations around topics related to your company or product(s). You can then use this insight into what people are saying about you online when evaluating the success rate of any given campaign. If necessary, you can also use your analysis to make changes to impact brand or product/service sentiment practically in real time.
Types of Social Media Data Sets
For many businesses harvesting data targets, social media platforms and networks offer rich, nuanced information streams that are simply invaluable for marketing. But what sorts of information should you be looking for when web scraping or running data analytics on social media?
Personal, demographic data
Marketers can’t access all the personal and demographic data of social media users, but there are easy ways to get some details that can be used to create an engaging customer experience. Collecting a person’s name, location, age, date of birth, contact number, or address is essential for marketing purposes.
The most straightforward way this information helps marketers is that it allows for the implementation of personalized campaigns, like sending out gift cards or coupons on customers’ birthdays and providing relevant content tailored to their location. A more intermediate way to leverage this information is incorporating it into ideal customer profiles or, one step more advanced, buyer personas.
Platform and brand engagement data
This type of information shows how engaged users are with social media sites or applications, helping marketers understand what motivates them to try a product. To gain insight into user behavior, track click-through rates, likes, shares, forwards, and replies, as well as complaints and tickets. With this data at hand, you can recognize trends in customer interactions for future marketing efforts.
Collecting user behavior data from social media can help marketers better understand their target customer’s actions. By looking for patterns in frequent activities, such as the time people spend on a particular site or post and how often they click, like, or comment on something, businesses can start to build an accurate picture of how to take advantage of the way customers behave.
Analyzing mouse movement and scrolling speed, eye-movement tracking, cart abandonment rates, and purchase history (for users coming from social media) provide even more insight into what appeals to users, making it easier for businesses to tailor content accordingly. With this information, they could create content subscriptions based on each customer’s likes.
Attitudinal data from social media can give marketers valuable insight into customers’ attitudes, such as likes, beliefs, and views on global issues. This information helps businesses create highly relevant content for the target audience, increasing engagement. Social media sentiment analysis of user statements about events or products is an effective way to collect attitudinal data and optimize performance based on user feedback, for example.
Information, such as movie genres they prefer, food preferences, favorite activities, or sports teams they follow, is very useful when creating content tailored specifically to each customer’s interests. Reviews also give direct insight into how people feel about a product or service.
Note that behavioral data is distinct from attitudinal information. Behavioral trends data provide insight into how customers behave on social media and across the web, while attitudinal information provides marketers with valuable insight into their customers’ attitudes and sentiments. There is certainly correlation and even causation (i.e., attitudes drive behavior), but behavioral data is more platform-specific. Attitudinal information is more generalized and carries over from platform to platform, more reactive to content than website or app functionality.
Social Media Data Mining
When it comes to big data, social media is a mother lode of data points, so it makes sense that there are multiple methods and tools for harvesting all that information. For our discussion, let’s broadly split social media data collection into two categories:
- Collected by tools: Performed via tools that are either in-platform (offered by the social media service) or offered by third-party solutions providers or vendors
- Collected by techniques or methods: Performed independently via manual or automated methods
Data collection tools include the backend and administrator analytics tools offered by the social media services and third-party vendors that either deal with pureplay social media statistics and key performance indicators or integrate such data into their offering. Meanwhile, data collection methods would involve automated web scraping and the use of proxies as foundational infrastructure.
Regardless of which you choose (they’re also not mutually exclusive), don’t forget about privacy laws! Make sure any third-party solutions or your own data collection techniques adhere strictly to relevant regulations where required.
Social media data collection tools
Social media data collection tools can be classified into four main categories. These are:
- Content performance tracking and analytics: These tools allow users to track the performance of their content across various social media platforms. They provide metrics such as impressions, engagements, and shares, which can help marketers assess the success of their campaigns.
- Sentiment analysis: Sentiment analysis tools allow you to analyze customer feedback in real time and detect trends in sentiment about your brand or product. This helps marketers identify areas for improvement and craft strategies accordingly.
- Real-time feedback monitoring: Real-time feedback monitoring is essential to keep up with customer needs or grievances while they are still relevant. It allows businesses to respond promptly before negative sentiment escalates into a crisis that could permanently hurt their reputation on popular digital social channels where viral occurrences easily spread like wildfire.
- Automated reporting solutions: Automation is key when collecting data from multiple sources at once, so you don’t have to spend too much manual effort tracking them all down individually. Automated reporting solutions make this process easier by allowing you to automate data collection processes across different networks.
As mentioned, these tools can be internal (platform-specific) or external (third-party) and are usually platform-agnostic. These are pureplay social media data collection tools and solutions that incorporate social signals into broader data collection analysis.
Businesses operating within specific industries can use tailored third-party tools (that are not restricted to social signals) to gain insights into consumer trends or behavior that can give them an edge over competitors. Through these specialized tools, businesses can identify customer needs and preferences in order to develop targeted marketing strategies for their products or services that go beyond just social media. Businesses also benefit from analyzing customer data across multiple platforms, allowing them to measure the success of campaigns and fine-tune their approach more cohesively.
Social media data collection methods
As for social media data collection techniques, there are a few staple data collection methods:
- Listening and monitoring: Set up automated alerts that track keywords related to your business. This will help you stay on top of consumer trends, allowing you to respond quickly and gain valuable insights through sentiment analysis over time. This is a lower volume (and manual) version of sentiment analysis — in fact, it’s the basis of it. All sentiment analysis tools automate large-scale listening and monitoring across platforms.
- Running surveys: These surveys can be sent via email, text message, or social media messaging or notifications. Ask specific and direct questions about the data you want to collect. Use multiple-choice question formats where possible. They provide more precise answers than open-ended questions, which may lead to misinterpretations of a respondent’s answer. Include incentives for completing the survey, such as discounts or free products/services, to boost response rates. Surveys are a direct-from-user approach to data collection and are very powerful if used properly.
- Competitor analysis: Competitor analysis is a powerful way to understand the current landscape of social media marketing. Keep track of the successes and failures of your competitors’ campaigns, posts, ads, and overall strategies. This will help you create better-informed decisions for your business’s own campaigns. Monitor their engagement on all platforms and analyze content topics resonating with their followers. Additionally, keep an eye out for changes in tone or style. These can indicate shifts in strategy or target audience segments, which could benefit you!
- Web scraping: Web scraping is a great way to collect data for marketing purposes. For example, you can use web scrapers to automatically scan websites and webpages for user profiles, reviews of products/services, social media mentions, etc., consolidating all relevant media into one repository. Program your web scraper with instructions on which sources you would like it to pull from to get the most accurate and up-to-date information available.
Web scraping, in particular, stands out among these data collection methods. Most methods of collecting social media data do not require proxies. They rely on manual efforts and campaigns set up using administrator backend tools and, sometimes, additional third-party vendors. Web scraping, however, will only work at scale if you also leverage proxies.
Web Scraping Social Media Data
Web scraping is one of the few cases where proxies may be needed to access certain data. If a company needs to scrape specific information from social media platforms, it will need proxies or similar technology. This is because most social media sites have security measures that prevent automated scraping activities and require users to authenticate their requests before allowing access.
And there are certainly some social media data points better collected via automated scraping instead of relying on third-party tools or solutions. For example, detailed information about a company’s target audience, which includes:
- Detailed demographics (e.g., age, gender, location) that are not freely available from internal or external collection tools.
- Interests/preferences of the target audience that aren’t being tracked by tools for technical reasons (e.g., improper spelling of hashtags, etc.).
- Followers and interactions on posts by the target audience that are otherwise only accessible to privileged (i.e., paid) accounts.
- Relevant topics and conversations where the target audience is engaging, which you can typically only access via vendor tools with machine learning algorithms.
- Demographic data about influencers your target audience follows, which can be limited when tracked via solutions providers instead of your own rules.
Businesses can collect these data points via automated scraping using a proxy. A proxy will allow businesses to access the social media platform and make requests without having to authenticate each request manually. This way, businesses can quickly scrape large amounts of data from the platform.
Benefits of web scraping social media data
There’s a notable overlap between what sorts of data you can and can’t get via tools and solutions providers instead of web scraping. If the goal is harvesting data targets, social media web scraping offers a few advantages over relying on tools provided by third-party vendors:
- A truly customized process: One advantage is that it allows you to customize the data collection process so that you can collect only what’s relevant to your marketing project. You’ll be able to get more accurate and up-to-date information since web scraping doesn’t rely on a third party’s preestablished filters, which might not fit your needs perfectly.
- Maximum control over privacy and security: By controlling the whole process yourself, you can ensure complete confidentiality and security of the collected data.
- Granular control over scale: Web scraping also gives you more control over the speed at which new social media posts are scraped compared to other online tools. This way, if necessary, updates will occur faster than usual or slower, depending on your needs.
- Practical budget restrictions: Web scraping is usually more cost-efficient. It often requires a one-time setup instead of paying for monthly subscriptions for tools which may still not yield as good results as expected due to their limited customization capabilities.
Effective proxy use for social media data scraping
When you need to scrape data from social media sites for marketing purposes, you will need proxies. Proxies act as an intermediary between your device and the web: it sends your requests to a website and then returns its response. There are several advantages of using proxies when conducting web scraping activities.
Manually collecting data from each social media page can be a huge drain on your time and resources. That’s why using a web scraper is such an efficient option for gathering data. Unfortunately, website servers are smart enough to detect when you’re sending automated requests too frequently and will block your IP address in response. A proxy can help you get around this restriction so you can continue scraping the site.
After all, web scraping can be dangerous if not done responsibly. Attackers can use similar technologies to perform automated, malicious attacks such as distributed denial of service (DDoS), which uses bot-infected machines for large-scale target attrition. When social networks detect these activities, they defend their servers by blocking web scrapers — even innocent users.
Using proxies when collecting social media data for marketing is a great way to stay safe. Rather than making requests from your own IP address, the proxy does it on your behalf so that websites won’t know who you are. This keeps personal information secure.
Finding reliable proxy providers
Rayobyte can help you collect social media data for marketing. We offer a range of proxies — residential, data center, and Internet Service Provider (ISP) — so that you can find the perfect option for your needs. We have a professional and ethical approach to our services, so your information is safe with us.
Using residential proxies for web scraping is a great way to access social media data. These IP addresses come from real people’s internet service providers, so they’re valid and constantly changing. That makes it easier for your scrapers to do their job without getting noticed, plus we make sure our proxies are reliable with minimal downtime.
Data center proxies are an ideal choice if you’re seeking faster speeds. They send traffic through data centers, leading to faster links. The downside is that fewer nonresidential and unique IP addresses will be available, but they cost less overall. Data center proxies can be an excellent tool for web scraping endeavors, especially for large sets of data, which is usually the case if you’re harvesting from social media.
ISP proxies offer a great balance of speed and privacy. They are located in data centers but affiliated with an ISP. This combination gives you the best of both worlds — the fast performance from data centers and the trustworthiness of ISPs.
How to scrape social media data
Social media web scraping is one of the most customized ways to harvest data. In exchange for the ease of use of most third-party vendors, however, you will need to configure it yourself.
First, you’ll need to set up the proxy service. This includes selecting a reliable provider that offers rotating proxies so that requests are made through different IPs on each run (this helps prevent bans). Next, set up scraping software with all necessary parameters, such as URL patterns, search terms, and other details. Then you’re ready to start collecting data!
For more in-depth guidance, Rayobyte has prepared a number of web scraping guides and tutorials for various programming languages:
- Web scraping with Java
- Web scraping in R
- C++ web scraping
- C# web scraping
- Scraping using Python
- Leveraging tools like Selenium
You must ensure you follow any applicable rules or guidelines set out by the social media network or risk being blocked or banned from making further requests. Once everything is good-to-go, it’s time to start harvesting valuable insights into your target audience!
The wide range of data available from social media platforms makes it essential for businesses to use the right tools and techniques when collecting, analyzing, and leveraging this information. Data can be collected via internal or external tools, surveys, competitor analysis, or web scraping. Marketers can gain access to personal/demographic information about customers, platform/brand engagement data, behavioral trends, and insights into customer attitudes.
Web scraping is particularly advantageous due to its customization capabilities and control over privacy and security. By following applicable rules/guidelines set out by social networks, companies can efficiently collect valuable insights into their target audience.
Using a reliable proxy provider like Rayobyte is key for social media data collection. Our advanced features can help automate the process, so be sure to check out our proxies! With the right tools, such as our Scraping Robot, you’ll have everything in place to start your venture.
The information contained within this article, including information posted by official staff, guest-submitted material, message board postings, or other third-party material is presented solely for the purposes of education and furtherance of the knowledge of the reader. All trademarks used in this publication are hereby acknowledged as the property of their respective owners.
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