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Social Data Social Data

What Is Social Data?

Social data—also called social media data—is the freely available information published by social media users.

Where Does Social Data Come From?

Most of this data comes from social media apps and websites published by individual users: this includes blog posts, POI check-ins, comments, likes, shares, and clicks. More sophisticated data collection methods even gather information like the amount of time a user spends viewing an ad or a blog post.  

Additional data includes passive information like time spent on an app or website, geographical location, device, and primary language used.

What Types of Columns/Attributes Should I Expect When Working with This Data?

Common attributes of this data include biographical information, app usage, interests, and sentiment.

What Is This Data Used For?

This data is primarily used by companies for the purpose of marketing and social media performance tracking.

Other groups that use this data, however, include academics, governments, and intergovernmental organizations. For example, see this article from Interpol about fighting terrorists who recruit new members and plan attacks through social media. 

How Should I Test the Quality of Social Data?

There are several concerns with social media datasets. 

First, bots abound on social media, making data cleansing difficult. 

Second, NLP (natural language processing) algorithms must be continually tested, as social media users tend to be on the extreme ends—that is, either excessively positive or excessively negative. Even manual review of social media text cannot always accurately determine users’ true sentiments. 

Finally, this data must be updated constantly—first because it is labile by nature and secondly because marketers must reach leads quickly in order to be effective. For example, a new like for a musician on social media should lead almost immediately to an ad for a concert in the same genre taking place in the next few days. 

Interesting Case Studies and Blogs to Look Into

Interpol: Terrorism: Analysing social media

Pulsar Platform: CBD market research trends and analysis – 2019 social and search data

How Sprout Social helps the Chicago Bulls take its social media game to the next level

Lilly Pulitzer: Facebook ads case study

Pulsar Platform: What are catfluencers? Understanding influencer marketing through cats

Tangible Examples of Impact

“Twitter is used extensively by individuals to read and share news with each other. For instance, it has emerged as a major platform to help report, organize and disseminate news information during major events such as the US presidential elections in 2008 (Lenhart and Fox, 2009) and the Euromaidan revolution in 2013 (Ronzhyn, 2014). … This is deemed to have challenged the conventional ways of news dissemination that are mainly controlled by official, authoritative news sources (e.g., CNN, New York Times), and undermined the gatekeeping function of journalists in determining the what and when of news content dissemination (Hermida, 2010).

IGI Global: Who Are More Active and Influential on Twitter?: An Investigation of the Ukraine’s Conflict Episode

“Academic social networking sites (SNSs) are growing rapidly. Similar to general-purpose SNSs, Academic SNSs offer several functionalities such as the management of profiles, posts, connections, and private messaging. However, in academic SNSs these features have more emphasis on academic metaphors.”

IGI Global: Users’ Distribution and Behavior in Academic Social Networking Sites

Western intelligence agencies express concern about massive databases of military and governmental personnel social media data. “[Corporate] records do not offer any indication that Zhenhua is controlled by the government, but the company positions itself among a constellation of data and security firms in the government’s close orbit.” 

Washington Post: Chinese firm harvests social media posts, data of prominent Americans and military

Social media and messaging apps played a major role in sparking these protests. And as part of its crackdown against them, the government blocked several apps and in some places, cut off Internet access altogether.”

NPR: In Response To Protests, Iran Cuts Off Internet Access, Blocks Apps

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