Home Technology A How-To Guide on Scraping Social Media Data with PHP

A How-To Guide on Scraping Social Media Data with PHP

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Web scraping is the concept of obtaining an extensive amount of data and information from a website. Once you extract the data, you can store it on a hard drive. You can also complete the same process on social media pages, such as Instagram or Facebook. This process is social media scraping.

To scrape social media to collect critical data, you will want to use a programming tool that will allow you to access and store the data you collect. In this guide, we will go over how PHP can help you scrape social media data

What is PHP?

PHP is a popular scripting language that you can use for web development and HTML. When you are looking to scrape a website of any kind(whether social media page or blogging website), PHP programming can provide the tools you need to complete the process.

How to Scrape Social Media with PHP

When working with HTML and coding, trying to learn how to do anything can feel overwhelming. But once you get the essentials down, scraping social media pages and sites can be relatively simple. The information below will give you a step-by-step guide on using PHP as an Instagram scraper tool or whatever social media you desire. 

Build Your Scraper

To harvest any data from a social media page, you will need to build a media scraper to gather the information you desire.

There are a variety of programs that work with PHP to complete the web scraping process. There are often two categories that these tools fall into; web scraping libraries or web request libraries. 

While web scraping libraries is a more thorough method to use, there are benefits to both categories. Using tools that have characteristics of both categories is a great way to build on your PHP scraping tool.

The Simple HTML DOM parser tool is one of the most popular pairings for PHP as a web scraper. The tool allows you to have a simple time reading and navigating through HTML coding. While it is a little slower than some other tools, it is reliable and easy to work with. 

To start the process, you will first want to install the Simple HTML DOM parser tool. Once you download the tool, you can start working with PHP.

Create a PHP File

When you create a new PHP folder, you will want to label it “simple_dom”. Then you will also want to include “simple_html_dom.php” at the top of the file.

You will want to know precisely what you are attempting to scrape from a social media site. For example, let’s say that you are scraping social media pages for information regarding likes, tags, and comments. 

In your file, add the file_get_html tool to get the HTML page of the social media page’s main URL.

Start Scraping

To move ahead in the scraping process, you will need to inspect the URL of the page you are scraping. You can open your browser, add the URL, right-click, and inspect the URL. Depending on which browser you are using, you may have to enable your inspecting functions. 

Once you can see the data in HTML format, you can then inspect the specific information you are seeking. For example, you will find a section that will display comments and other engagements. You can then scrape all the relevant information, and you will want to save the output as a file.  

Saving the Data

Now that you have an output of the data you put through your scraping tool, you will want to convert the information into an XML file. Converting the data is easy by using SimpleXMLElement, another tool that works hand-in-hand with PHP.

Save the Important Info

While there is a lot of information that you can save from a social media page, not all of it is essential. Knowing what you are looking for beforehand can save you a lot of time. Otherwise, you will be face-to-face with an enormous wall of text, which can be overwhelming.

Conclusion

There are a lot of good reasons that you may want to scrape a social media page. Many businesses and companies will scrape social media to view analytics and engagement. Knowing what is popular among social media is just one of the many ways of staying on top of trends. 

Social media scraping is also a great idea if you are a small business owner. The data you gather can help you find what is currently popular in the marketplace. Even more so, scraping can prove critical to your success in other fields of marketing too. It has viable applications within Ad Words, SEO link building, video marketing, content marketing, cold outreach marketing, and much more.

Before scraping any website, a fundamental knowledge of HTML and coding is necessary. Once you have the basics down, scraping is a piece of cake that you can use to your benefit.

About Author:

Christoph is a code-loving father of two beautiful children. He is a full-stack developer and a committed team member at Zenscrape.com – a subsidiary of saas. industries. When he isn’t building software, Christoph can be found spending time with his family or training for his next marathon.

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