What is 'Social Data'

Social data is information that social media users publicly share, which includes metadata such as the user’s location, language spoken, biographical data and/or shared links. Social data is valuable to marketers looking for customer insights that may increase sales or, in the case of a political campaign, win votes. There are many types of social data including tweets from Twitter, posts on Facebook, pins on Pinterest, posts on Tumblr, and check-ins on Foursquare and Yelp. Facebook for Business and Twitter Ads are two programs that help advertisers use social data to market to targeted users who are likely to be interested in their ads.


Users voluntarily make much of their social data public, allowing companies free and easy access to it. If a company that sells tickets to athletic events sees that a user follows several sports teams, that company could target ads to that user to try to entice her to buy tickets to see her favorite team play. Another way a company can use social data is to provide timely ads based on recent posts, such as appliance ads for someone who has shared that they are shopping for a home.  

With high-quality social data that is aggregated and analyzed correctly, companies can target ads to the people who are most likely to buy their products or services. Social data can also help companies determine the most effective places to advertise.  Companies can refine their advertising further by narrowing their target audience by gender, language spoken, electronic device used, age, interests, location and other factors. Social data not only helps companies acquire new customers, it also helps them further engage with existing customers. 

Analyzing Social Data 

There are normally two steps to analyzing social data. The first is collecting the data generated by users on networking sites and then to analyze that data. The process of analyzing typically takes place in real-time — and that is then used to determine influence, reach, relevance and other considerations. Businesses that use this type of data analysis have to keep several things in mind, including 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), and how viral activity starts and spreads. 

Limitations of Social Data 

Social data is imperfect for several reasons. It is limited to the information that users decide to share about themselves. For example, some users may not share their location or their gender, giving advertisers an incomplete profile to work with. Another problem is that many users on social media are not real users but fake robot, or bot, accounts. Even with real users, attempting to gauge their feelings about a brand or political candidate (called “sentiment analysis”) based on the comments they make is not always possible because many of their comments are neutral and algorithms can incorrectly classify comments as positive when they are actually negative and vice versa. 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 political candidate.


  1. Social Networking

    Social networking is the use of internet-based social media programs ...
  2. Social Media

    Social media is a computer-based technology that facilitates ...
  3. Social Security Benefits

    Social security benefits are funds paid to retired workers who ...
  4. Socially Responsible Investment ...

    Socially responsible investing looks for investments that are ...
  5. Data Mining

    Data mining is a process used by companies to turn raw data into ...
  6. Twinternship

    A twinternship is an internship in which the intern is charged ...
Related Articles
  1. Trading

    The Power Of Social Media: Influencing Trading And The Markets

    Check out the growing power of social media, and how it is being used to predict and influence investment markets.
  2. Small Business

    Social Media: High Risk, High Potential Returns

    Carefully selecting social media ETFs can provide you with the opportunity to diversify your portfolio and enjoy financial rewards due to user growth.
  3. Small Business

    What Facebook Owns That Other Social Media Do Not (FB)

    Examine Facebook's competitive advantage to understand how the network effect and application suite set it apart from other social media platforms.
  4. Small Business

    5 Up and Coming Social Media Startups

    Although the days of Facebook's dominance aren't close to being over, here are some new creative platforms gaining traction on the worldwide web.
  5. Retirement

    The Potential Impact of 2017's Social Security Cap

    The Social Security cap increased to 7% in 2017, but even that may not be enough to keep Social Security from running out of funds.
  6. Investing

    Financial Advisors: Social Media Is a Gold Mine (FB, TWTR)

    Learn how social media is a gold mine for financial advisers. Maintaining a social media presence enables you to reach customers, and it provides social proof.
  7. Tech

    Facebook Now Has More Users in India Than in Any Other Country

    India has surpassed the U.S. in terms of daily active users on Facebook and presents a growth opportunity for the social media network operator.
  8. Small Business

    Facebook Users Might Earn Money Via "Tip Jar" (FB)

    Facebook is considering a plan to allow users to earn money from its platform by using tipping jars and making sponsored posts.
  9. Small Business

    How Facebook Beat MySpace

    Facebook became the leader of social media by offering users a clean design and the right mix of customization options.
Trading Center