“I don’t believe in social media.”
It’s a phrase we often hear when showing our software at security industry events. The pervasiveness of social media has left many people disdained and disgruntled—but whether or not you “like” social media, it is an important factor in any open source intelligence strategy.
Social media is so pervasive, in fact, that there is a whole industry built around aggregating and monitoring social media content that could affect or inform your business.
Let’s take a look at 8 different industries that use social media monitoring tools, and how these tools help them get ahead.
Personalization is the biggest motivator for hospitality to get on board with social media discovery. A positive feedback loop happens when people are on holiday, or enjoying hospitality in their own cities: guests share their experiences via social media, and businesses can use this content to further promote themselves and bolster that feedback by responding personally. Paying attention to the conversation on social media allows hospitality businesses to find and respond quickly to public promotional content directly from customers.
For example, many hotels thank their guests for social mentions by delivering complimentary champagne or chocolates to guests’ rooms. Imagine posting a selfie by the pool and having your favorite cocktail brought over to your lounge chair just minutes later—this is the level of personalization that leads to unequivocal brand loyalty from customers.
Conversely, if customer feedback is negative, hospitality businesses can mitigate complaints more quickly and effectively using the same tools, and improve their chances at getting a positive Yelp review.
On the flip-side of positive feedback loops is the viral reality of modern public relations. Twitter is often where many PR pitfalls are born, or where brand-impacting incidents are publicized and spread. When anything newsworthy occurs, people take to Twitter and other social platforms quickly and aggressively.
Social listening tools are the quickest way to get in front of public sentiment. PR departments and agencies rely on these tools to assess responses and issue an apology, retract a statement, or plead a case. Social media solutions also allow PR agencies to go beyond Twitter and into the more obscure social networks so that no bad press goes undetected.
Paying attention to social media for brand mentions and threat detection is increasingly important in today’s sharing culture. For brick and mortar businesses, feedback posted within the property itself is equally valuable, as customers could be complaining about bad service without mentioning store names or associated hashtags. Again, this information gives retailers the opportunity to quickly respond to positive or negative customer feedback more personally.
With geospatially-enabled social listening tools, retail and other brick and mortars can filter social posts by geographic area rather than by post content. This means that if the content was posted publicly and tagged to a location, it will be included in search results. Users can then filter more deeply within that location to drill down on relevant keywords.
Another benefit of these tools is to deliver hyper-local advertising. What customers want from a chain location in New York might be completely different from customers in Houston. Geofencing specific areas (e.g. cities or neighborhoods) allows retailers to zero in on what values or keywords are prevalent in a specific area, and target their advertising and promotions accordingly. This is especially valuable to businesses opening new locations.
Surprisingly, thieves will often boast about their actions publicly on social media. Retailers can also use social media discovery to gather information about theft and stolen goods.
Media and journalism
Situational awareness is critical for accurate reporting. Effective news coverage on breaking events is extremely important, especially when public safety is concerned. Media outlets rely heavily on social listening tools to deliver a complete picture to public and emergency service teams, aiding in timely response and security measures.
Geofencing physical locations to discover relevant social media content before, during, and after an event is like having thousands of extra eyes on the ground. If news is breaking in an area, people on the ground, more often than not, will post a photo or status update before fleeing the scene.
Social media also gives investigative journalists access to content that might otherwise go undiscovered or hidden by major media outlets or governments. This is how journalist Eliot Higgins used social media to help crack the case of flight MH17.
Social media, like the financial market, never sleeps. Financial institutions and insurance providers use location-based social media tools to understand area-specific risks affecting stakeholders and policy holders around the world, including:
- Natural disasters
- Political unrest
- Market changes
Cyberthreats are one of the biggest challenges faced by finance. Paying attention to more obscure social platforms, such as certain web forums and messaging apps, can also reveal scammers advertising fraud services targeted at financial institutions.
Social media data gives security teams a leg-up when it comes to assessing physical threats. As with media and journalism, security teams can use public social media posts to gain extra eyes to assess and locate threats.
A security analyst can monitor content over the course of an event to discover potential threats that on-the-ground personnel might be blind to. This means they can quickly direct all-hands-on-deck to wherever they are needed most. Situations that might quickly escalate, such as fights or unattended bags, can be proactively discovered and addressed before potentially getting out of hand.
Social media has helped 80% of police agencies solve crimes, according to a 2013 IACP report. Considering the growth of cybercrime in recent years, this number can only be expected to increase.
Aside from using social media to address PR blunders and communicate public alerts, social media is an incredibly valuable source of open source forensics for police investigations. Image and text-based content publicly posted on social media has lead to arrests for a variety of crimes, from petty theft, to murders, to international investigations.
Police can also use online data to proactively mitigate potential threats—for example, if students publish “don’t come to school tomorrow” posts on social media networks.
It’s no secret that government defense and intelligence agencies rely heavily on social media and other open source intelligence (OSINT) to gather critical information. Here are just a few examples of how governments are harnessing the power of social media:
- Discover intelligence related to terrorism and international crime
- Gather public sentiment about political issues, either at home or abroad
- Gain situational awareness about political climates or incidents abroad
- Monitor news and social platforms for propaganda
*Note: Most social media networks have terms and conditions in place that limit access to government and law enforcement organizations. See individual network guidelines for more information.
Protect the organization with Flashpoint
Regardless of whether you are active on social media, public posts from online sources cannot be ignored. Location-based social media data empowers almost every industry. It allows a number of organizations to improve marketing or PR strategies, boost security, solve crimes, and inform governments, businesses, and the public—and technology makes relevant intel easily accessible at any organization’s fingertips.