Social media intelligence (SOCMINT) is a game changer for corporations striving to protect their people, intellectual property, customers, and operations. It has become a cornerstone of everyday life and has completely revolutionized how businesses interact with consumers and generate new leads.
SOCMINT helps security professionals proactively identify risks before they become security threats - allowing businesses to fortify their defenses at the earliest stages of attack planning. Additionally, it has become an indispensable tool organizations use to grow their business and keep a pulse on customer sentiment.
But social media is a double-edged sword. With all its benefits, social media requires that companies detect and respond to potential threats, misinformation, and smear campaigns.
If you’re an organization looking to boost your security and expand your business using social media insights, you might be wondering where to begin.
This comprehensive guide will delve deeper into social media intelligence, why it should be part of your corporate security and marketing strategy, and tips to ensure your online presence remains secure.
What is Social Media Intelligence?
A sub-discipline of open-source intelligence, social media intelligence is all about using social media to uncover valuable insights for decision-makers. While it may have originated in national security and law enforcement circles, businesses increasingly turn to SOCMINT to bolster their corporate security functions. Security and intelligence analysts use social media intelligence to identify risks, validate potential threats and garner valuable consumer insights.
What makes SOCMINT particularly compelling is that it has both strategic and tactical applications. Tactically, it has the ability to deliver almost instantaneous information about what's happening on the ground in a specific location. This real-time intelligence is critical, as local media outlets may not always be able to capture this level of detail.
In another application, analysts can use EXIF data to identify the location of a threat actor. Analysts can then relay this information to a security team to assist with travel planning for high-level personnel.
Strategically, social media intelligence can provide future insights for executives. Security teams utilize SOCMINT for information regarding emerging threats. This can help leaders make informed decisions about issues like resource allocation and staffing.
Social media is the perfect platform for monitoring online conversations. Whether it's a PR crisis or a company expansion, it's essential to consider public perception. With SOCMINT research, executives can make informed decisions that will positively impact their business.
What is the Difference Between Social Media Monitoring and Social Listening?
When it comes to social media intelligence, there are two terms that industry experts regularly use: social media monitoring and social listening.
Social media monitoring entails brand review on a micro scale, where experts look for trends and communications based on their company, campaigns, and brand. More specifically, monitoring social media means tracking keywords, hashtags, and mentions relevant to your brand to stay informed about your industry and audience.
When most security teams and marketing professionals think about social media monitoring, they tend to concentrate on the platforms with the largest audience. For example, Facebook or Instagram. But social media monitoring requires access and research across countless social media platforms, which includes – but is certainly not limited to – the following:
Social Networking Sites
Social media networking sites are arguably the most popular tools for companies to promote their brands, and they include social media giants like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Media Sharing Sites
While thorough social media monitoring entails the review of written content, like blogs or social media posts, it also involves video and media content. Online monitoring includes videos or posts shared on Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, and other media-based social media platforms where video or image content (versus written posts) is the norm.
Online forums like Reddit can be a hotbed of false information. Therefore, social media monitoring should include popular online forums and interest-specific sites, like Xbox Live or other gaming forums.
Microblogging platforms like Tumblr can also spark meaningful trends, news, or information, that are broadcast worldwide.
Blogs should be another key target for social media monitoring campaigns and can entail popular blogs by journalists, celebrities, and everyone in between.
Other Online News Sources
The sources mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg.
For every popular social media platform that requires social media monitoring, there are countless more sources of online talk just below the surface. Dark web sites, specialized online forums, and overlooked blogs can propel online trends globally and create positive or negative conversations that can compromise employee safety or damage a brand.
Social listening is more comprehensive and focuses more on data analysis and review. Social listening (or radio monitoring) entails examining your company's online reputation and the broader conversation around your industry and services. Social listening marketing and industry professionals pay attention to the talk around your products or services, your competitors and their campaigns, and your industry to spot trends.
By understanding both world trends and brand-specific conversations, a company is better able to craft campaigns, conduct analysis, and create strategies to respond to any negative publicity before it is broadcast globally.
Security professionals use social listening and media monitoring techniques to identify necessary changes in travel plans, pinpoint physical threats, and proactively manage crisis situations. By actively engaging with customers through social channels, companies can collect relevant data about potential threats before they even happen. Social listening can enable more efficient responses with less chance of unpleasant surprises, helping ensure business continuity when facing physical threats or other travel risks.
Why Should Your Business Incorporate Social Media Intelligence?
Staying ahead of potential threats is crucial for your business. With the right social media intelligence, you can gain actionable insights to do just that. By evaluating data from various social media platforms, you can make informed decisions, mitigate risks, and even identify new growth opportunities for your organization. A successful social media intelligence or monitoring campaign benefits a business in the following ways:
Enhanced Corporate Security
Social media posts can compromise the physical safety of key stakeholders and company leaders. Threat actors can review online news and media coverage to determine where and when an executive or other industry leader will be. This kind of information can result in safety issues for both a company’s personnel and everyday operations. Organizations become more vulnerable to malware attacks, phishing schemes, and other attempts to garner valuable data from a company.
SOCMINT not only detects potential vulnerabilities in your business, but it can also reveal sensitive information that could be used against you by malicious groups. For example, personal photos shared on social media by colleagues or loved ones could divulge the home addresses of one of your essential executives. Similarly, threat actors can exploit employee details to circumvent security measures or gain entry to restricted areas. SOCMINT allows security teams to proactively evaluate and neutralize potential threats before they materialize, safeguarding operations and protecting against potential risks.
Savvy organizations have recognized the value of social media marketing to grow their customer base. Security teams are one of many groups to incorporate SOCMINT. PR pros, PR agencies, and pr professionals also recognize that an intelligent social marketing strategy can be highly beneficial. It can enhance brand reputation, provide valuable customer insights, promote better public relations, and help industry leaders make informed decisions.
The social media realm is full of companies that suffer reputational damage because of inaccurate social media posts or messages. For example, energy drink giant Red Bull has been the subject of numerous controversies surrounding a fake online news article about boycotting a driver at the Australian Grand Prix.
Similarly, gaming giant Nintendo apologized after an imposter posted an image of their famous Super Mario icon giving the middle finger.
Even Amazon has noted how social media misuse can damage a brand, reporting that over 200 million suspected fake reviews were removed in 2020 alone. As the online news source The Guardian reported, Amazon blamed social media channels for failing to remove fake reviews from their websites. They asserted that bad actors use social networks to buy and sell fake product reviews outside Amazon’s technological reach.
False posts can even send the stock market reeling. In 2015 a series of false tweets by a Scottish trader caused one company’s share price to drop 28% in a single day.
Stop Theft and Security Breaches
A false social media post can undoubtedly impact your reputation and harm your customers and key stakeholders.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently stated that social media is a jackpot for scammers. More than 95,000 people reported $770 million in losses in 2021 to fraud initiated on social media platforms.
These online scams compromise customer loyalty and business revenue, as fake social media accounts or users utilize a company’s recognizable brand to sell counterfeit products or services. Consumers erroneously associate these fake social media profiles with the actual business.
Social media intelligence allows organizations to track suspicious activity, such as a threat actor inflating the price of an item to resell elsewhere. Similarly, businesses can use intelligence to flag fraudulent accounts created to access sensitive data. If a breach does occur, social media monitoring can help identify when and where it happened, allowing for swift corrective action.
Increase the Effectiveness of Marketing Campaigns
Social media intelligence can also enhance the success of digital marketing campaigns and media relations.
Most customers use social media to connect with businesses and garner news on the company's digital marketing endeavors, promotions, and managed services. Accordingly, research is required to ensure these key messages suit your audience.
Understanding your audience and market trends will make your social media marketing campaigns more effective. It will give you the tools you need to identify the core messages in your marketing strategies. With extensive research and analysis of social media data, you can stay ahead of your competitors with timely, resonant content.
How to Conduct Effective Social Media Intelligence Gathering
Cast a wide net for data collection
Security teams tend to focus their social media surveillance on popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter. But threat actors are becoming more sophisticated. And increasingly, we see malicious individuals posting on lesser known alt-tech forums and social networks to evade detection. To address this, analysts need to broaden their social media monitoring to include less familiar sites to minimize the risk of overlooking critical threats.
Keep tabs on a changing social media landscape
OSINT analysts need to keep track of shifts in the online media landscape, as new social networks appear and others disappear. For example, after the Capitol riots, users moved to a social network called Parler. More recently, many users switched to upstart microblogging services like Mastodon after Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter. Security teams must keep up with these changes to avoid monitoring inactive or unhelpful sites.
Cover your digital footprint
As people browse the internet, they leave behind digital breadcrumbs that can create a unique fingerprint of their online behavior. When properly pieced together, this can reveal a lot about your identity and intentions. And for OSINT analysts conducting any type of social media intelligence gathering, this poses a risk as it could alert a person of interest that they are being investigated. To mitigate this problem, analysts should take steps to protect their operational security, such as using a virtual machine with a privacy-focused browser connected to the web through a VPN, and a managed attribution service that can conceal their online activity. These measures help to conduct investigations with greater anonymity and reduce the likelihood of alerting potential adversaries.
Don’t piggyback off of the marketing department
Potential issues that may arise when security teams use the same social media monitoring tools as their marketing colleagues to cut costs. These tools may take too much time to retrieve data from various online sources, leading to costly delays during crisis situations that require quick action. Additionally, these tools may only focus on major networks, ignoring smaller, alternative sites. To avoid these drawbacks, managers should explore security-specific tools with rapid crawl times and broad coverage.
How can you Conduct a Comprehensive Social Media Intelligence Monitoring?
It starts with LifeRaft.
There is infinite value in conducting a thorough analysis and monitoring initiative of all social media channels.
However, most companies don't have the ability to conduct in-depth social media intelligence campaigns that expose emerging threats, track their competitors, and provide customer insights. Conducting a thorough analysis of all social media coverage is a Herculean task. With so much data floating in the social media world, it's unrealistic for organizations to oversee this constant media monitoring.
An experienced social media monitoring partner is a must.
At LifeRaft, our Navigator product does all the heavy lifting of manual social media monitoring , providing your business with insights enabling analysis, and subsequent reports to protect your employees, intellectual property, brand and customers.
From reviewing famous news reports, blogs, or social media channels to identifying tiny bits of social media data that can go viral, Navigator performs 24/7 monitoring of all corners of social media. Our software lets you stay on top of emerging events and trends affecting your business, market, and industry. Moreover, it also means that you can detect threats – and implement solutions – before they become a crisis.
The Bottom Line on Social Media Intelligence
Social media intelligence offers businesses many opportunities to protect their people and customers, stay ahead of competitors, and understand market trends. The reliance on social media coverage for news, tools, services, and reports on the happenings of daily life, makes it imperative to adopt a holistic, intelligence-led strategy.
Contact our social media intelligence team today for a review of our tools and solutions that will give you the upper hand in responding to potential threats and identifying the conversation surrounding your business. We'll ensure your social media intelligence strategy is as comprehensive as possible.