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Types of data

In this article, Sebastian Binnewies classifies the different types of data found on social media platforms.
Composition of icons representing the data types: demographic, psychographic, behavioural, product, referral, location and intention
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Social media data is very rich. The information captured on platforms includes many aspects of people’s lives. Users share information about the products they like, their current mood, their travel photos, and even who they are married to.

With such a vast array of information posted on social media platforms, we can try to classify the different types of data as shown below.1 This can be helpful to determine what and how much data is available for later analysis. For each type of data listed, take a look at:

  • the examples of the user actions that give rise to the respective type of data, and
  • the examples of how the type of data could be analysed for further insights.

Demographic Data

Type of data: User’s age, gender, education, marital status, etc.
Data sources: User profiles.
Data analytics example: LinkedIn displays ads for further studies based on users’ previous education.

Psychographic Data

Type of data: User’s personality, lifestyle, interests.
Data sources: User activity (posts, clicks, messages).
Data analytics example: Technology companies collect information on the type of device (eg Windows/Mac, PC/tablet/phone) used to access their social media profile.

Behavioural Data

Type of data: User’s life events and actions in the past.
Data sources: User activity (posts, clicks, messages).
Data analytics example: Governments analyse Twitter posts to assist with natural disaster rescues.

Product Data

Type of data: Product/brand pages; user mentioning a product/brand.
Data sources: User activity linked to product/brand profiles (likes, follows, messages).
Data analytics example: Companies group all users who follow a Twitter profile by country, gender, etc.

Referral Data

Type of data: Ratings, reviews.
Data sources: User votes and comments on a specific product/service.
Data analytics example: Hotels improve their service from guest feedback on TripAdvisor.

Location Data

Type of data: Real-time location of user; location of shops, products, services.
Data sources: User activity with location capture (automatic, tagging).
Data analytics example: Companies use location targeting for their Facebook ads.

Intention Data

Type of data: User’s intentions on future actions.
Data sources: User activity (posts, clicks, messages).
Data analytics example: IKEA interactive catalogue allows users to share links to catalogue pages on social media.

Your task

Pick a social media platform discussed in the previous step and list some of the types of data produced on the platform.

Share your answers in the comments.


  1. Bhattacharya M, Wamba SF, Akter S, Kang H, Upal M. The primer of social media analytics. J Organ End User Comput [Internet]. 2016 Apr;28(2):1-12. Table 1, Types of social media data for analytics; [cited 2018 Nov]. doi:10.4018/JOEUC.2016040101 

© Griffith University
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