Facebook is a massive database full of use- generated content. This means that if you know what you are doing, information from Facebook can be used to get a much better understanding of your audience for both political and business gains. One really good example of this is how Cambridge Analytica users profile data to create psychographic profiles for the purpose of marketing campaigns.
Researchers can use hosts either created by individuals, or in groups and comments to conduct sentimental analysis, and work out the intent of a group user, or an individual. As a result, there is a lot that can be done with this kind of data from Facebook.
However, there is something getting in the way of attaining this type of data. This is because Facebook offers an API for collecting user profiles and content created by users on the platform, but it is restrictive and limiting, which means you can’t use the collected data for your intended purposes.
This means that you have no choice but to scrape the required data using a data scraping tool for Facebook, commonly known as Facebook scrapers. If you are good at coding, you can even come up with one yourself, but if you can’t, then you need to make the most of one on the market that already exists.
Before we recommend the best tools to use when scraping information from Facebook, let’s take a look at Facebook scraping in general.
Facebook Scraping – a General Overview
The thing about Facebook is that it’s not your usual website with a limited budget. In fact, Facebook as a company has a massive budget, as well as thousands of staff members, a good number of which are dedicated to preventing spam on the platform. This means that scraping data from Facebook is not a small task, and there are a lot of web scrapers out there that have given up on the idea after so many botched attempts.
Facebook includes a very robust anti-bot system, as well as receiving backlash itself for collecting user data. Because of backlashes, Facebook has tightened things around his anti-bot system, in order to prevent crawlers and scrapers from accessing the website. As a result, scraping information from Facebook is a challenging task that could end up costing you a lot of money.
Even if you are successful at it, there is a big risk of being targeted by Facebook, which could result in having to pay a huge fine, or even getting a jail term, depending on what you’re using the data for. However, even with these risks in place, researchers and businesses are still scraping information from Facebook anonymously. If you want to do so as well, then continue reading below.
How to Scrape Facebook Using Requests, Python, and BeautifulSoup
Below we have included a Python code that is meant for scraping specific data from Facebook groups. It isn’t a very sophisticated code which means that it does not scrape videos, images, and even the name of post authors.
All it does is scrape the text. It also can’t be used with proxies. It uses BeautifulSoup for parsing, and Requests for downloading the page. Before you run the code below, make sure that you have installed BeautifulSoup and Requests:
Command to install Requests:
pip install beautifulsoup4
When you install BeautifulSoup you can change the identification of the group to another group, and the texts within that group will be scraped:
import requests from bs4 import BeautifulSoup class FBGroupScraper: def __init__(self, group_id): self.group_id = group_id self.page_url = "https://mobile.facebook.com/groups/" + self.group_id self.page_content = "" def get_page_content(self): self.page_content = requests.get(self.page_url).text def parse(self): soup = BeautifulSoup(self.page_content, "html.parser") feed_container = soup.find(id="m_group_stories_container").find_all("p") for i in feed_container: print(i.text) group_id = "1463546523692520" d = FBGroupScraper(group_id) d.get_page_content() d.parse()
Best Facebook Scrapers
If you aren’t someone who has enough coding experience to develop your own Facebook scraper then we suggest that you try out one that has already been created. Of course, as we mentioned above, there are already a lot of Facebook scrapers in the market that you can use for this task, and while some of them are free, we don’t generally suggest that you go for a free one, as a lot of the time they are restrictive, and low-quality.
This is why we recommend that you only work with Facebook scrapers that charge for this service, as they are high-quality. Let’s take a look at what we think are some of the best Facebook scrapers in the market right now.
Octoparse is potentially one of the best web scrapers in the industry right now, and with this you can scrape pretty much all kinds of different websites with Facebook of course being one of them. It even offers Facebook scraping template exampes that are ready for you to use, which makes it a lot easier for you to scrape data from Facebook without having to build up a profile from scratch.
This Facebook scraping tool is quick, reliable, and efficient. You can use it either on the Cloud or download it to your desktop. Its pricing begins at $75 a month, but it offers clients a free trial to begin with – just note that you can’t scrape Facebook with their free trial.
ScrapeStorm is not a specialized Facebook scraping tool but it is an ideal one to use if you plan on scraping data from Facebook. The thing that we like about this Facebook scraping tool is that it’s easy to use, and its starter plan is free, however this of course comes with limitations.
Their pricing begins at $49.99 a month, and it is downloadable software, which means that you will be using it from your desktop. It comes with an intelligent data recognition function and can help you with so much more than just your Facebook scraping needs.
Phantom Buster Facebook Group Extractor
Phantom Buster is a Facebook scraping tool that develops automation software for automating tasks on social media. They offer support for scraping user-generated content in both Facebook groups and communities.
With this tool, you can scrape Facebook profiles, and while they are a paid tool, they do offer new clients a 14-day free trial. Their pricing begins at $30 a month, and it is compatible with Mac, Linux, and Windows. It is also a cloud-based tool if this is what you prefer.
Proxycrawl Facebook Scraper
The next Facebook scraper on our list is unique when compared to the ones that we’ve already talked about. This is because it is not a cloud-based software, or something that you download and install onto your desktop. It is a scraping API.
This means that you can incorporate it into your code and use the scraped data straight away. This type of company is definitely built for developers, and its pricing begins at just $29.00 a month.
Apify Facebook Page Scraper
Apify is a well-known web scraping tool. It can not only help its clients with its own tool, but it hosts user’s tools that you can use for your various web scraping activities. Of course, it includes a Facebook pages scraper, which means that it can help you extract reviews, comments, posts, and any other important information from Facebook.
This Facebook scraper is available as an API, and the thing that we like the most about it is that it’s easy to use, and has reasonable pricing, beginning at just $49.00 a month.
We’re definitely not trying to downplay the fact that scraping Facebook is challenging, and requires a great deal of know-how, organization, and smooth execution for it to work properly. If you know that you don’t have the skills to do this successfully, then we suggest that you utilize an existing Facebook scraper in the industry.
As you can see, we’ve gone through a number of Facebook scrapers that we think will be ideal for your activity online. Good luck!