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The rise of social media networks all over the world has been phenomenal. Its influence is evident in every sphere of our lives – both personally as well as professionally. Over the last few years, social media has enhanced its positioning in the market beyond a traditional communication and ‘keeping in touch’ platform. Rather, it has now become a strong influencer. Thanks to the views, comments, posts, tweets and replies, the platform is fast emerging as a veritable destination for anyone and everyone who wants to perform some action.
That exactly is the value proposition that social media brings to the table. And businesses can choose to ignore this user- generated content (UGC) only if they want to go out of business, fast.
Major social networking sites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have a complex architecture of storing, accessing, and displaying information. Their page structure goes far beyond the routine HTML scraping involving table elements and images. However, the good thing is that some of them are open to sharing a portion of the information that doesn’t breach on their own website access terms and privacy laws. Towards this end, they have made available APIs (Application Programming Interface) for web crawlers.
These APIs help to auto-retrieve feeds and select information from select places on the websites. For a web crawling company, it possesses dual advantage; the company no longer has to invest substantially to get a complex script developed in order to crawl these big social media platforms. Also, they get the data they want without infringing on their terms and conditions. But the biggest advantage is that they get the data back in a more structured format that takes the pain out of the next stage of ETL needed for big data analytics.
The actual crawling process is a bit more complex for a layperson to understand. But what happens in a nutshell is this – Your crawling script will have the ability to make HTTP/HTTPS calls and then analyze the JSON or XML HTTP response (these two formats are the most frequently used by the social networking sites APIs). The information retrieved is then stored in a database for further BI/big data analytics.
This is the biggest area of concern for brands. With the widespread usage of social media networks, an unintended or deliberate post that harms the brand reputation will spread like wildfire and within a few minutes, the damage becomes too big to control. Hence, it is important to monitor your social engagement to help provide a better customer experience on their own terms.
A famous instance in this case is Applebee’s restaurant. A pastor who had just finished his meal was asked to pay 18% tip as standard which gets automatically added to the bill. On the bill, he wrote, “I give God 10% why do you get 18?” A waitress promptly took a snapshot of the pastor’s comment on the bill and posted it on Reddit. However what she didn’t know was that this act was a direct violation of the restaurant’s corporate policy. This act led to an outburst of negative comments like “I don’t even eat here, so I can’t quit eating here. But I would! You guys just suck that much.” As an outcome, the waitress was fired.
This speaks volumes of the need for the Applebee management to have quick access to data from web crawling so that the damage from such faux pas can be kept to a minimum, instead of letting it go viral the way it actually did in 2013. Also, the web crawling process would’ve helped uncover the act of the employee on time, and thus helped the restaurant to frame a strong social media plan that has guidelines on what the employees can and cannot do on the social media platforms.
Many businesses operating in the hospitality and government sectors are using social media sites like Facebook and twitter to offer real- time support. For a customer, this means a faster resolution of issues, and arresting a concern before it escalates into a major problem – one more way in which an enriching user experience can be provided to the customer.
For many businesses, the voices of the customer on social networking sites lead to generating more business. With the help of web scraping, businesses can understand if a majority of the users on social media are viewing a brand in a favorable light or not. A lot of happy or satisfied customers always helps bolster brand sentiments on social media platforms, which in turn, increases the likelihood of more business pouring in for the brand.
This factor can be best explained from a hospitality point of view. For a traveler, hotel review sites and Yelp are a veritable goldmine of information on how a particular hotel ranks in terms of key performance indicators (room service, hygiene, location, ambience, food etc.). People are more vocal these days on such platforms, and their voices lend a performance yardstick for others to measure up a particular hotel.
On the other end, for a hotel, these sites are the make-or-break for them in their endeavour to pull in more travelers to their hotels. With the help of web scraping, hotel owners can quickly come to know the general view aired by travelers. This adds value to a hotel owner at two levels:
1) It provides a transparent picture of the state of hotel administration
2) It provides a clear path of priority for the hotel owner to take in case of rectifying glaring issues
Knowing these data from social media with the help of web scraping can help a business to elevate the user experience further.
Social media channels help to build a positive vibe around a brand. The data crawling exercise can show the leadership whether the voices heard on social media is positive or otherwise. This can help them do course correction or reputation bolstering campaigns that makes the brand stand out from its competitors.
It is obvious that the degree and volume of user reviews and comments are directly proportional to the bottom lines of a business. Hence, it will be a smart move to employ web scraping services from a reputed company and exercise control on how your brand is presented on the social media.
It is pretty clear that businesses have to keep a continuous tab on social media to know what people are saying about their brand. They also need to invest in keeping up the credibility of the brand with a positive perception. With help of targeted web crawling from reputed agencies, they can easily get to know the general online reputation of the brand and thus make changes to either propel it or improve it. This way, social media can be utilized to elevate user experience up by a notch.
Stay tuned for our next article to find out the common bottlenecks in the Data extraction Journey.
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