Social data is information that social media users publicly share, including metadata such as the user’s language spoken, biographical data, location and/or shared links. These customer insights can help marketers increase sales or raise brand awareness. 

There are many types of social data, including:

  • posts on Facebook
  • tweets on Twitter
  • photos on Instagram
  • pins on Pinterest
  • check-ins on TripAdvisor

Social media networks, such as Facebook for Business and Twitter Ads help advertisers use social data to target users who are likely to be interested in their ads. It is because of these tools that social media advertising is so lucrative and important.

Breaking Down Social Data

Social media users make much of their social data public in exchange for using the platform – sometimes without an awareness that they have forfeited their ownership rights and privacy protections. This valuable data allows companies free and easy access to target audiences who might be unaware of the extraction of their personal data, and the high value of that data.

If a company selling lipstick sees that a user follows influencers online, that company can target ads at that user to sell their product. Another way a company can use social data is to provide timely ads based on recent posts, such as athletics shoe ads for people who say they are taking up running.

Using high-quality social data that is aggregated and analyzed correctly, companies can target ads to the audience most likely to buy their products or services. Social data helps to define boundaries and segment audiences further to ensure that each advertising strategy is effective in reaching those who present as the strongest leads.

Analyzing Social Data

There are two steps to analyzing social data. The first is collecting the data, the second is analysing the data.

Collecting the data is done when social users submit their information by accepting the terms and conditions presented to make use of a platform. While social media platform providers are supposed to make it easy for people to protect their data, this has not been the case and people find it difficult to change privacy settings or even understand online tracking.

Data analysis typically takes place in real-time. Social users are targeted by advertising that is determined to have an influence on them or to be relevant to their circumstance.

Businesses that use this type of data analysis must remember:

  • how to distinguish between social data and sentiment
  • time relevance (what’s relevant today may not be tomorrow)
  • quality (how impactful certain messages and comments are by specific people)
  • how viral activity starts and spreads

Limitations of Social Data

While social data is of enormous value, it does have some shortfalls. The information is limited to what users chose to share about themselves. For example, some users may not share their location, while others withhold their birthdate, offering an incomplete picture.

A huge issue is that many social media users are fake accounts or bot accounts. Even real users can lie, or withhold information, in which case a ‘sentiment’ analysis can be incorrect. Some social users are trolls who take pleasure in posting controversial sentiments and such users are not generally a good lead. Further, many positive and negative comments that are available are extremes, making it difficult to accurately evaluate how consumers overall feel about a product, service, brand, or social issue.

While social data is a valuable tool, it should not be the only resource that you use to analyse your desired audience and find prospects.