What Is Social Media Scraping and Why Should You Care About It?
Learn all about social media scraping and why it’s so important for businesses.
What Is Social Media Scraping – the Definition
Social media scraping is the process of collecting data from social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Usually, it’s done automatically, using ready-made scraping software or custom-built scrapers.
You can scrape many different data points like followers, likes, number of views or shares, to name a few.
Why Businesses Use Social Media Scraping
Performing Sentiment Analysis
Social media platforms are the number one place where you can find thousands of discussions on the topic of your interest. Users share their preferences and dislikes, communicate with like-minded folks, or even fight to the death defending their opinions.
You can get a grip of what people are saying and what they care about by scraping comments, tweets, or whole discussions on users’ perceptions. This will bring you closer to the answer of whether your ideas for new products are valid and worth developing, and see the bigger picture of how to communicate with your customers.
So, instead of burdening their target audience with tiresome surveys, marketers use social media scraping to collect customer opinions.
Analyzing Market Trends
To stay at the top of your game, you need to know all the latest trends. But if you’ve ever tried to extract information manually, you probably know it’s easier said than done.
Needless to say, web scraping helps a lot. Good marketers know that automation can handle even the peskiest tasks, such as going through all the comments, post likes, or hashtags. And with the right scraping tool, you can get clean (structured) data. This way, you’ll get up-to-date insights into the market’s trends – what’s booming and what’s already old news.
Also, there are various groups on social media platforms, with users sharing common interests. By tracking and monitoring their habits or pain points, you can customize scraped data to your marketing campaigns, and even get some inspiration for future advertising campaigns.
Monitoring Online Branding
Words online are like a virus – it’s hard to get the hold of them once they’re out. And if you don’t monitor what people are saying about your company, you might take a hit. Brand reputation monitoring requires tracking product and brand mentions all-around social media platforms, even if your business doesn’t have a profile on that specific social network.
Knowing what your target audience is talking about can be used to improve your social media communication, marketing strategy, or help you with sudden drops in revenue caused by negative customer impressions.
From the cutest dog in the world named Boo on Instagram to TikTok comedians and fitness gods, social media influencer marketing is booming. But finding the right influencer isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s time-consuming and might lead your business to a catastrophe if not carefully chosen. And that’s where scraping comes into play.
First, you can scrape hashtags in your industry and see which influencers use the same ones. You can also base your decision by scraping followers of a potential influencer – look for similarities with your audience. Another way is to scrape the likes and follows of your target audience. That way you can uncover relevant micro influencers that your users already engage with.
However, be aware that your competitors might also use an influencer marketing strategy, so double-check (scraping will help here, too) not to end up with the same influencer as your rivals.
Choosing the Best Social Media Web Scraping Tools
Building Your Own Web Scraper
With some programming knowledge you can build your own web scraper. One way to do so is by using web scraping libraries or frameworks.
Python-based web scraping and crawling frameworks like Selenium or Scrapy can handle complex automation on well-protected social media platforms. You can also use web scraping libraries like BeautifulSoup, Cheerio, or Puppeteer, but they’re usually not enough for a complete scraping process.
Buying a Ready-Made Web Scraper
No-code scraping tools don’t require writing any code. That means you can scrape social media platforms without any programming knowledge.
Ready-Made web scrapers are suitable for retrieving posts, tweets, comments, shares, and likes, among other elements. However, they’re built for beginners, and advanced users might lack some functionality and challenge.
Using an API
A web scraper isn’t the only tool to collect data from the web. You can also use an API.
Some social media platforms – Reddit, Pinterest, YouTube – offer their own APIs. Instagram, on the other hand, shut down its API, and TikTok doesn’t bother offering one. However, official scraping APIs come with some limitations.
Different platforms apply rate limits – the number of elements (tweets, comments, etc.) you can retrieve during a specific timeframe. In simple words – you won’t be able to scrape large amounts of data. And you’ll be asked to have an account.
Also, social media networks are strict about what kind of data you can extract. For example, YouTube allows you to retrieve feeds related to videos, users, and playlists. For any other elements, you’ll need to consider unofficial APIs that support proxy rotation to access more data with fewer restrictions.
Tips for Scraping Social Media
Even though web scraping isn’t difficult, social media platforms will do what they can to leave you drenched in sweat. Just imagine your IP suddenly being blocked when you’re only a hand’s reach away from the Holy Grail. Sounds painful, right? Here’re a few things to consider for that not to happen.
A browser fingerprint reveals information encoded in your browser. With a headless browser, you can overcome browser fingerprinting, while residential proxies will rotate your IP address. Both tools make your traffic look like a real users’ one – a sweet combo for large-scale scraping projects.
Another issue lingering around social media scraping is that you’ll get rate-limited or blocked if you make too many requests from a single IP address. That’s why rotating proxies are a must when scraping social media networks. So, don’t be greedy – change your scraping patterns and request frequency. In other words, act like a real person.
However, keep in mind that websites tend to update their algorithms to prevent automation, so don’t forget to take care of your scraping bot and respect the website you’re scraping.
The Legality of Social Media Scraping
Social media web scraping raises many ethical questions. However, if you want to scrape publicly available data – that’s fine because there are no regulations prohibiting scraping as an action. But when someone gathers information behind a login (it’s not publicly available data), then things become hairy.
Even though personal data is surrounded by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that protects people’s privacy online, breaches still happen. Remember a massive data leak from the company Social Data in 2020? More than 300 million different accounts from YouTube and TikTok were exposed – usernames, profile photos, phone numbers, age and gender, emails along with specifics about followers, and other information.
Another issue why most social media platforms say a big fat NO to web scraping is that people ignore websites’ terms of service (that they’ve agreed to) and extract data without the owner’s permission. And from a legal stance, it means that the website might sue you for breach of contract.
So, if you don’t wanna end up in jail or get your IP address banned, don’t get involved in any black hat use cases and respect the website you’re scraping.