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Public Relations and Social Media Scraping

I recently got asked for an interview by a girl in a Master’s program who was doing research so she could teach a class on Public Relations. She had only one question, and it was as generic as they come;

“In a Masters Degree program for PR and was assigned to teach a lesson on Social Scraping. Not finding much out there defining it. What is its application?”

WHAT!?! Seriously? After six years of college, a young woman soon to be done with a Masters doesn’t understand the wide reaching implications of collecting candid impression and behavioral data?
I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt and blame it on the time of night her time that she got in touch with me, but it was pretty obvious that she wasn’t prepared for the conversation and quickly zoned after 10 minutes and politely brushed off my input.

After 10 years of writing software for various marketing and data interpretation applications I am still at a loss for a two sentence nutshell that is all encompassing for this type of software.
So, for the rest of the world that lives and breaths terms like Social Media Scraping, Internet Marketing, Reputation Management, Lead Generation, Brand Impression, and Public Relations… I wanted to take a minute and write this.

Social Media Scraping
Typically takes place in one of three forms; Paid Data Access, Application Data Access, Programmatic Scraping. Large marketing companies will commonly pay for access to data from social sites and credit card companies. A couple years ago I worked on a project collating data from a credit card broker called TSYS and retailers, the goal being that we could analyze complimentary and competing predicts between market competitors and market accordingly. This method is very expensive and companies charge a premium for access to the data.

To get around this cost restraint mid size companies develop social media applications that give users a benefit in exchange for surreptitiously accessing their personal data. This method typically complies with the TOS of the host site. Though, in this case, the application becomes a product in and of itself and is subject to marketing constraints.

The third way is illicit parsing of Social Media data, this process is referred to as Scraping. A programmer writes an application that emulates high volume of users to gather information about users from various sites and perform actions as if they are a legitimate user. This practice is frowned upon as it consumes server resources without monetary gain for the company that is hosting the user data.

The data is then merged in to an internal database for further processing to various applications.
Lead Generation for Internet MarketingThe obvious and least successful next step with the data is to directly market to the leads via email addresses obtained. This method not only has a low conversion rate, sends the wrong impression, but can also permanently damage online metrics by having server addresses flagged in spam databases thereby reducing SEO authority.

It is very important that marketing efforts be used with a third party service performing emailing, URL shortening to hid your actual URLs, and highly optimized squeeze pages to optimize conversions with a clear call to action.

Public Relations and Press Releases
Using linguistic processing a company should process the content of all messages to pick out certain company topics and assess if the public has a positive or negative impression and take action accordingly. Software will steer a conversation to the outcome needed using drone accounts as in the USAF Metal Gear project. Press Releases should also be used to clarify negative issues while playing to cooperative positive issues.

When issuing a Press Release it is important to adhere to standard SEO metrics. Repeat keyword phrases without spamming, don’t link excessively, and use a mass syndication service. Distribute your Press Release through as many distribution sites as possible while also releasing it as an article through hub-spoke link structures linking to a related squeeze page. The magic formula being, explain negative issue -> play up positive features -> funnel traffic to conversion page for related product or service!

Reputation Management
Every time I turn around I am hearing about a new local review site. Most of them are not accurate and simply scrape data from other sites. Others, like Yelp and Google Places, I am hearing about all the time from business owners who think the sites are dangerous. Review sites can have a major impact on a business, and are one major source of hurt feelings for business owners. Using scraping techniques a business owner should quickly collate data from many sites into a single view and get an overall impression of Public Relations nightmares.

Reviews can never be taken personally, and should NEVER be assumed as a conspiracy. Software developers take every precaution to ensure valid and legitimate feedback is presented. The same level of due diligence needs to be taken to respond.

4 Steps for Controlling Review Sites
1. Respond to every negative comment with a concise explanation, an apology, an invitation to return to re-evaluate and modify the negative feedback after giving you a second chance, and a link back to a related article on your company’s website.
2. Flag every negative comment.
3. Encourage your patrons to participate on sites where you have reviews, but not as many. It is important to only refer your customers to review sites that are getting legitimate reviews.

Don’t be afraid to let your customer’s see negative reviews, we are hoping they disagree!
Brand ImpressionUse your data to identify individuals and communities that discuss your subject matter more than others. Use this data to locate points where staff can participate in the communities and further your brand presence.

Use your data to identify dead spots and focus impression based advertising in these areas.


About Pythorian

Exploration and Production oriented security consultant for securing IT infrastructures relating to natural resources.


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