Scraping Social Media for Profitable Marketing Strategies

Market growth

Would it make sense to include social media scraping in your business strategy? Checking out your competition and following various trends gives you a significant advantage over your competitors.

Web scraping social media allows you to harvest large amounts of data over the Internet that can help you develop profitable business strategies. Knowing what is being said about your brand, both negative and positive, lets you use this data to monitor and improve your brand image. And the potential for social media marketing to help you to reach prospective customers is huge.

What is web scraping?

Web scraping (also called web harvesting, or web data extraction) often employs automatic methods like bots to rapidly extract large volumes of specific data from targeted websites for analysis. It is contrasted with web crawling, which is less specific and only creates a copy of what is there.  Manually gathering and analyzing data would prove almost impossible, since many websites do not allow copying and pasting.

Use cases

Web scraping has become increasingly popular as the data extracted from the web has many uses:

  • Price Comparison: Using web scraping over time to track product and service prices in different markets can help you stay competitive.
  • Social Media Scraping: Accurately predict upcoming trends by using social media data to track current trends.
  • Research and Development: Web scraping is used in research to collect large data sets like statistics from various websites, which are then used to conduct surveys.
  • Recruitment: Data extracted from career-focused websites can be used toward filling certain job vacancies.
  • Contact Information: Scraping of contact information such as emails, URLs, and phone numbers from websites.
  • Determining public attitude: Knowing the public’s attitude about your brand will help you to enhance your product and provide potential customers with what they want.

Security measures

Many websites employ strong security measures to protect their data. Their reasons vary from wanting to protect member confidentiality, to preferring to harvest the data themselves for their own analysis. Many websites would prefer that only Google crawl their site, and try to block all other requests that appear to be scraping. However, any publicly available information is usually ok to scrape, as long you follow the website’s terms of service and robots.txt.

Success factors

Navigating a website’s security measures requires ingenuity — and the right tools. Gathering large amounts of data without a reliable proxy server can easily put you on a website’s blacklist.

To avoid having an IP address blocked for scraping too many pages from a website, you can use a proxy server. A proxy server not only hides your IP address, but can provide you with several IP addresses that rotate automatically, so you don’t need to worry about IP detection. And you can sometimes get IP addresses in the required region so you can meet the website’s access requirements.

It’s also a good idea to add randomized intervals between your requests to slow down your requests and to prevent server overload. This strategy keeps your scrapung from appearing like an automated program.

Websites can easily pick up bot activity by looking at headers. Using a headless browser lets you look like a real browser.

Follow the guidelines

Adhere to the laid-out guidelines of target sites. These may cover which pages can be scraped and how frequently you can scrape websites to avoid getting on the site blacklist. Review the terms of service to be sure you are in compliance.

Choose your proxy type

To scrape social media, you’ll need a proxy, but some proxy types work better than others. A residential proxy works well because, to the remote site, it looks “legitimate,” like an ordinary user. Good residential proxy services include Storm Proxies, Luminati, and OxyLabs Proxies.

Data center proxies are more easily blocked, because IP addresses are often shared, making it harder for a single user to limit the number of requests from one address. Too many requests will get that address blocked.

With social media scraping, some operations require you to stay logged in; but a persistent IP connection can lead to blocks. To compensate, some providers offer a slightly extended time period before the IP rotates, so that you don’t have to change your configuration. Still, you may only have a few minutes to make your requests.

Tools for scraping most social media

Pair your rotating proxy server with one of the social media scrapers. These tools not only extract data from social sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but can also retrieve data from blogs, wikis, and news sites. Here are a few of the more common web scraping tools.

  • Octoparse:  No knowledge of coding is needed to use this tool. Just point, click, and extract.
  • ParseHub: A free, easy to use straightforward yet powerful web scraping tool.
  • Dexi.io (Digital Commerce Intelligent): This tool uses an advanced ETL (extract, transform, and load) engine which defines and builds the processes.
  • Mozenda: A fast web scraping tool with no need to write scripts or hire developers.
  • ScrapingHub: Includes 4 primary tools, separately priced, for exporting data in several formats.
  • Phantombuster: Code-free automations and data extraction for the web.

Libraries and scripting

For an example of an end-to-end scraping operation in Python, click here. Scrapy is also useful library if you want to write your own web scrapers.

Staying competitive

Scraping social media is a valuable tool for growing your business and keeping abreast of the competition. You can avoid getting blocked by using a reliable proxy service that offers the features and support to keep up with website detection techniques. And adding web scraping tools makes this is an easy and profitable way to monitor your brand and reach a vast pool of potential customers.

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