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Your Social Media Data: What's Collected and How is it Used?

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Posted January 12th, 2021 by Jenn in #social media management tips (120)

It’s no surprise that privacy in 2020 is almost an antiquated notion of the past. With geolocation check-ins, tagged photos, event RSVPs, online timestamps, and more, you can learn a lot about someone by browsing their social network accounts. Any information available about a social media user, whether it’s their relationship status, college alma mater, or political beliefs, is all part of a person’s social media data profile.

Handing over our personal social media data has almost become a sacrifice people are happy to make to access social media. This makes all of this data accessible to mine and organize to better understand a specific user as well as entire user segments.

social media data charts

What Is Social Media Data?

Social media data encompasses a broad range of online information including photos, purchase history, active hours on social media, engagement rate with certain types of content, and so much more. I’m sure that some people are familiar with the story of the high school girl who started receiving coupons from Target for baby products. Her father was furious at Target for sending coupons for baby products to his daughter but it turns out, she was pregnant. Target was able to figure this out using social media and search data.

According to ProPublica in 2018, Facebook has “collected more than 52,000 unique attributes that Facebook has used to classify users.” That’s a lot of information about one person. I bet most people couldn’t even list 2,000 different traits about themselves, let alone 52,000 unique attributes. But when confronted with 52,000 unique attributes about just one person, marketers are often overwhelmed with all of the data points and don’t know what to make of all of this information.

Let’s take a look at the different types of social media data points collected and how this information can be used by marketers to reach and form stronger connections with users.

personal data

What Social Media Data is Collected By Social Networks?

The types of social media data collected about users can be broken down into roughly five different categories: Behavioral Data, Engagement Data, Personal Data, Attitudinal Data, and Preference Data.

Behavioral Social Media Data

Behavioral social media data looks for patterns users frequent during their journey to complete an action that advertisers want, whether that action is a purchase, visiting a website, or sharing a post on social media is up to the advertiser to distinguish. Here are some examples of behavioral social media data points:

  • Transactional Social Media Data: Subscriptions, purchases, previous purchases, average order value, cart abandonment data, average customer lifetime value, customer loyalty program details, etc.
  • Social Media Usage: Repeated actions, task completion, feature usage, feature duration, devices used, etc.
  • Qualitative Social Media Data: User attention, heatmaps (clicks, scroll, mouse movement data), time on site/time on app, etc.

Social Media Engagement Data

The engagement data collected and measured by social media networks is tracking how users interact with their social media platform, third-party sites, and their advertisers' platforms. Here are some examples of social media engagement data metrics gathered about users:

  • Website and Mobile App Interactions: Website visits, app stickiness, most viewed pages, user flow, traffic sources, etc.
  • Social Media Platform Engagement: Post likes, post shares, post replies, native video views, etc.
  • Email Engagement: Open rate, click-through rate, bounce rate, email forwards, etc.
  • Customer Service Information: Number of tickets, complaint/query details, feedback, etc.
  • Paid Ad Engagement: Impressions, click-through rate, cost per click, ad conversions, etc.

Personal Social Media Data

Personal social media data is the information about a person’s identity that could jeopardize that person’s identity. Many of these data points are not available for marketers to access to protect the user’s identity and security, but some less-revealing data points are accessible like birthdays, gender, and age. Here are some examples of personal social media data:

  • First name, last name, or full name
  • Location: Country, state, city, ZIP code, or an exact physical address
  • Email address
  • Login usernames and/or passwords
  • Driver’s license number
  • Social security number
  • Passport number
  • Credit card or debit card details
  • Date of birth
  • Phone number
  • Gender
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Age or age group
  • Information about their job and employment history

Attitudinal Social Media Data

Attitudinal social media data is essentially data about the feelings and emotions of social media users. This data is measuring how users perceive certain messages, social media content, and other information. Because of its subjective nature, attitudinal data is usually compiled using surveys, polls, interviews, user feedback, user complaints, reviews, etc. Here are a few examples of attitudinal social media data collected about users:

  • Motivations and challenges
  • User satisfaction
  • User sentiments
  • Desirability of the social network
  • User preferences
  • Purchase criteria or preferences

Social Media Preference Data

The best way to describe preference data on social media is preference data is how a user identifies or supports various activities, ideas, content, etc. A few examples of a user’s social media preference data include:

  • Political affiliation
  • Religious beliefs
  • Food preferences
  • Favorite activities
  • Movie and show genres
  • Sports teams

tracking and analyzing social data

How Can Social Media Data Be Used Effectively?

Social media data about users is mainly used for hyper-targeted advertising to users while they are on social media networks.

Determine Which Social Media Data Points Matter to Your Business

To pull out the social media data that is useful to your company, you need to answer the following questions:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What social networks do they use regularly?
  • How do they interact with social media networks?

Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s much easier to narrow down the social media data that will be most useful to better understand your consumers. For example:

Your company sells themed cakes and one of your target audiences is parents of kids aged 1-16.

After looking at the behavioral data and engagement data of adults 25-45, you determine that your target audience spends most of their time on Facebook and Instagram with a small amount of Twitter interaction as well. They use the platforms to share pictures of their kids and family, to keep up with friends, catch up on news, and laugh at funny videos and pictures.

That’s a robust start to learning more about a customer target audience. With this information, you have a better understanding of which social media data points would be helpful to better target and engage with your audience. Preference data points that would help you learn more about your consumers and reach them include:

  • Favorite sports teams
  • Movies or shows they watch
  • Vacation destinations
  • Food preferences (including diets and food allergies)
  • Family activities

With this information, your cake company could create targeted ads for user groups who are fans of the Star Wars movies and shows offering custom Star Wars-themed cakes. And just like that, your company can become a more relatable and relevant option than other cake companies who take a more general approach to their social media advertising.


There are lots of different social media data points collected about users; not all of them are useful for creating marketing campaigns. With the right social media data, companies can not only learn more about their consumers’ behavior on social media, but they can also uncover deeper insights about how their consumers (and potential customers) think, feel, and act when presented with different situations.

Does your company use social media to better understand your customers? What data points do you find the most insightful? Let us know!