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This article examines the role of social media metadata in conducting studies of professional development in social media spaces. It traces the brief history of research surrounding social media spaces, noting the lack of research that drills into social media metadata in research on professional development. Framed through a software studies perspective, this article provides a deeper examination of the historical nuances of metadata and explores two distinct methods to procuring social media metadata for research on social media enhanced professional development: using pre-built tools and calling an API (application programming interface) directly. The article raises important ethical considerations around using social media metadata, and touches briefly upon ideological questions associated with the ways companies collect, store, share, and monetize users’ metadata. To overcome these limitations and biases, the authors propose a mixed methods approach through examining back end metadata, employing front-end surfacing techniques of the social media applications, and engaging in traditional qualitative methods of interviews and focus groups for the richest research.
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