Options For Engaging Social Media Monitoring Services

       March 8, 2019

Why Social Media Monitoring…

In today’s online world of business, presence on social media is an inescapable requirement. They say you can hide a skeleton on page 2 of the Google search, and yet get away unnoticed…! Similar is the case with an entity’s presence on various social media platforms today – in Hindi, there is a very old (pre-internet age) adage, “Jo Dikhta Hai, Woh Bikta Hai” – roughly translates as : What’s visible, sells !

Given this dictum, several businesses and organizations put their best foot forward when it comes to social media presence, to get a visibility for their brand, reputation management and higher footfalls on their profit drivers.

Well, if this is a foregone, then social media monitoring comes-in as the next logical and smart step to stay ahead in the business world. We’d better be aware of how others are perceiving us, and opining about us on the social media; we’d better not be stumped by an adverse reputation or a brand image crisis, striking at the core of our business through the powerful vector that it is. If social media can coolly lift you to a new high, it can also throw you down with as much might, if not more – damage control before things go viral and beyond retrieval, become critical and inescapable; and in such times you are invariably reminded of the time-tested advice : A stitch in time (could have) saves(d) Nine… !

The good news is that we have such tools and options to save the day before catastrophe in the ever-effervescent Social Media world. Let’s see what these are…

The Nuances

Following are the nuances of social media (SM) monitoring for investigation/individual entity tracking purpose, with an overview of the variety of tools available for the purpose :-

Tools for Location Tracking, Entity Tracking and Content Monitoring

  • There are SM tools which can be used to geo-fence a specific area or a location and all the SM posts/tweets emanating from that geo-fenced location can be picked up along with the identity of the entity posting/tweeting.
  • Further, the details of individual entities can be drilled down to investigate the past posts/tweets/content put out by that entity in the open source domain.
  • Also, a history of the target entity’s location can be traced out as to where all has the entity traveled to and from which location, what was put out in the SM domain.
  • Multiple entities can be tracked this way and over multiple SM platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Weibo, YouTube, Vimeo, Wikipedia, Snapchat, Flickr, Reddit, Bing and a few more such platforms can be trawled for specific keywords, filter-based searches and specific entity’s SM presence/activity tracking.
  • Based on the above, customized alerts can also be generated for the user, to be alerted/informed the moment information of interest is put out in the SM domain.

Tools for Multi-platform search, and thread building around events, people & activity.

  • Then, there is a tool to find inter-linkages and identity of a target person by scanning through common ID thread running through multiple SM platforms.
  • For example, based on the available email ID or mobile number or an ID used on one of the social media platforms, multiple other platforms can be trawled for gathering inputs on them put out or revealed by the target identity/entity.

Link Analysis Tools.

  • At the next level, we have a link analysis tool which links up multiple variety of raw data fed by the client or gathered from the SM platforms and ingested into this tool, carries out an analysis and gives a graphical output to study trends, patterns, inter-linkages, etc among a group of entities/identities. This helps understand the bigger or the integrated picture in a much better manner.
  • Some of the multi-platform search, link analysis tools are based on AI/Machine learning algorithms, so with usage and with better understanding of the client’s specific requirements/interests, post-search utilization of the analyzed output, etc, the tool’s efficiency, accuracy and analyzed output keeps improving and enables a better focus.

Intelligence Integration Tools.

  • Then, on top of these usually sits a SM intelligence integration tool which could process billions of feeds and ingested vast raw API data to carry out an intelligence analysis, and give a comprehensive picture on the topic being tracked or studied.
  • For example, a brand wants to get a pulse of its reputation in the market, the sentiment analysis, population wise, geography-wise, diurnal and seasonal preferences, etc, current & historic (and even predictive) – these can all be gathered from a single SM Intelligence Integration Tool.
  • These are niche tools, and are usually deployed at enterprise level, handling complex, multiple, multi-channel, multi-input based big data tasks.

Man-in-the-Loop Based Social Engineering & Analysis Tools.

  • There are services being offered to combine the power of a/m automated SM monitoring tools with the manual interface of studying the data, manually analyzing and assessing the output/intermediate datum lines and further refining or re-tasking the tools for a desired outcome.
  • The man-in-the-loop offerings are usually more effective and can be customized better, focussed and more flexible to the client needs, but of course these come at a price for manual effort added to the cost.

Some Interesting & Important Notes

  1. The data utilized by all the above tools is API based, and if acquired from open internet, it is essentially that which has been put out by the entities in public domain, for public access.
  2. There is no infringement of privacy and forced, intrusive tool or technique applied using these branded, commercially available tools. The disclaimers and compliance are pretty well defined and adhered to.
  3. Targeted investigation such as CDR analysis, gathering data from the deep/dark web, intrusive investigations, etc, are also possible, but they have legal implications and restricted availability for use. Usually such customized tools are made available only to LEAs and with strict mac-binding, tunneling and other such data security measures to prevent leak/mis-use.
  4. There are also tools available for a variety of other, non-investigative purposes such as :-
    • Early warning indicators
    • Corporate security – People and assets protection purpose.
    • Financial needs for market tracking and gathering early signs of market mood, movement, occurrences, breaking news and reactions, etc.
    • Public sector services – anticipating situations, impending/potential trouble events, damage control in virulent open source based panic situation, perception management, etc.
    • Market sentiment study, brand reputation/popularity, public preferences, etc can also be picked-up, analysed and put to gainful use such as targeted sales, product improvement, etc.

So… What’s The Big Deal ?

To understand which tool is best suited for you or your organization, and to serve what purpose or to achieve what outcomes, we could assess and provide expert advice, besides deploy and operate the correct combination of tools for optimal results/outcome deriving the real bang for the buck ! Afterall there’s no point putting huge investment in terms of money, time, resources and expectations, and yet not achieving the desired outcome…

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