Social Media Scraping: The Hows & Whys

Want to tap into unlimited user-generated content, stay on top of market trends, and better understand your audience? You’ll want to read this guide to social media scraping.

Social media scraping–what’s that?

Social media scraping is the extraction of images, hashtags, profiles, etc., from social media platforms and websites. 

Scraping can be as simple as manually saving images, text, and links to your computer–but the copy-paste and Save As methods have zero scalability. 

Suppose you want to compute usable data intelligence from social platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, and Tik Tok. In that case, you’ll need the sophistication and automation of full-spectrum social media scraping tools.    

What are social media scraping tools?

Social media scraping tools are web scrapers that pull datasets from social media websites and platforms. You can also use them on news sites and forums. There are two types of web scrapers suitable for collecting social media data–open-source scripts and web scraping APIs.

Open-source scripts

These web scrapers are the self-assembly type where you must pick which components to use in your web scraping automation system. You need to understand the software’s programming language and the general process of crawling, scraping, and parsing data. 

While these can be resource-lite for techies, it can take a lot of time to master open-source scraping components like Beautiful Soup, Selenium, Python libraries, etc. 

Web scraping APIs

Web scraping APIs are usually software downloads that simplify the whole crawling, scraping, and parsing process. You control the decision-making–what to scrape, where to store data, how to use data–from a Graphical User Interface(GUI). It hides all the coding complexities and automates the turning gears beneath its simple surface. 

For a price, web scraping APIs can gather real-time data at depths and precision that qualify it as business-nourishing data intelligence. And you can harness this power and scalability without much effort. 

We cover a whole bunch of ways to scrape for free.

Let’s look at how scraping social media for data intelligence is worth the price of admission. 

Why scrape social media anyways?

Social media data provides the most dynamic and nuanced information about human behavior. It opens the doors to understanding your audience, so here are the main reasons you should scrape social media websites.

Audience engagement

It’s challenging to track all the times your company, brand, product, or service gets talked about. All of these conversations are amazing opportunities to engage with your audience. 

Generate leads

Social media platforms have the contact details of users publicly displayed that you can scrape and use as a lead for your business. For lead generation and finding business prospects, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are some of the primary targets. Many users on LinkedIn and Facebook have their contact and professional details publicly displayed that you can extract and use for creating leads.

Sentiment analysis

What does a group think about specific ideas and topics? All you have to do is scrape discussions threads and hashtags on the subject and then use that data to perform sentiment analysis. One of the best language data sources for performing sentiment analysis related to market research is social media. Your customers are constantly there, highlighting their preferences, discussing their dislikes, and possibly even interacting with you. 

Artificial intelligence

Robots are becoming more lifelike thanks to the help of web scraping. Humans are insanely complex compared to artificial intelligence, but both operate from a binary core–on and off, and ones and zeros, respectively. Humans just have more data input coming from a highly evolved and finely-tuned sensory apparatus called the nervous and limbic systems. We can feed AI with social data to even the playing fields, which is like updating the social framework. If we code the AI to scrape social data, it’s technically similar to how humans consume social media.

Monitor branding

Hear your customers’ voices and the opinions from within your industry, competitors, and the press. Since data scraping is easy and quick, it can also be an excellent tool for mitigating public relations challenges. Suppose a business or organization is suddenly experiencing a drop in revenue or negative engagement with its customers. In that case, it can use scraped data to help make sense of the change in conversation. 

Problems scraping social media.

Other than privacy violations and other potential legal infringements you should look into, social media entities enforce some of the most ruthless policies around web scraping. 

Generally, most websites err on the side of caution and monitor for bot activity. Any they detect sets off red flags, and then policy protocol or system administration processes the threat. 

It’s the same with places like Facebook and Instagram, except they tend to shoot first and ask questions later. In other words–they have a low tolerance for web scraping and ban IPs with cold indifference. 

Bypass IP bans.

It’s not hopeless. On the contrary, hiding your scraping activity from the ban hammer is relatively straightforward and nearly effortless. 

The key to bypassing bans while scraping Reddit or LinkedIn, for example, is to make every request sent from your web scraper look like a unique visitor. 

This is where rotating residential proxies fit in. (You might want to learn more about this beautiful term.)

As long as you have a large pool of residential and mobile IP addresses to draw from, you can switch to a new IP for each request. 

That sounds like a lot of work. And it is unless you have a system that rotates your IPs automatically–which we do. 

Many web scraping services include proxy rotation, but the success rate can vary without using high-quality proxies. 

FAQs

Web scraping is legal, but you have to watch where you step and how often you step there. In other words, you can get in a lot of trouble if you trespass on virtual property, violate copyright laws, or cause damage to a website. Learn more here.

How much does web scraping cost?

Web scraping can cost time or money. If you learn how to use open-source scraping tools, you can do it yourself for the cost of bandwidth. On the other hand, web scraping services have different price structures, and you need to investigate their options individually.  

Can I use data center proxies?

You can, but datacenter proxies fail multiple times more often than residential or mobile proxies. Websites can quickly identify cloud IPs and scrutinize them because of their association with bots, hackers, and other guests they prefer not to have to poke around. 

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