What Is SOCMINT?
Social media intelligence (SMI or SOCMINT) refers to the tools and solutions that enable organisations to analyse conversations, respond to social signals, and synthesise social data points into meaningful patterns and analysis based on the needs of the user. Social media intelligence enables the collection of intelligence from social media sites using both invasive and non-intrusive ways, from open and private social networks. OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence) includes this form of intelligence gathering.
Social media, in its broadest definition, refers to a conversational, dispersed style of content creation, dissemination, and communication among groups. Social media, in contrast to broadcast-based traditional and commercial media, has muddled the distinction between author and reader, with the processes of information creation and dissemination being intimately related to those of information consumption and dissemination.
Given the ever-changing nature of social media and social media monitoring, our present knowledge of how social media monitoring might assist enterprises in creating commercial value is inadequate. As a result, it is necessary to investigate how businesses might
(a) collect and evaluate social media data linked to their company (Sensing)
(b) use external knowledge received through social media monitoring for particular business activities (Seizing).
SOCMINT vs. OSINT
Because consumers and privacy activists believe that there is some expectation of privacy while utilising a social media site, SOCMINT is not as easy as OSINT. While OSINT researchers might not concur with this notion, there is another feature of SOCMINT that is important to take into account.
While SOCMINT can make use of material discovered on social media platforms that was specifically meant for a certain audience, OSINT investigations only employ information that is openly accessible. The distinctions can get murky, for instance, if an investigator needs to sign up for a private group or make a false account in order to obtain data given by a person of interest. These circumstances make SOCMINT more difficult to traverse for those conducting these investigations, and every effort should be taken to comply with the rules, regulations, and procedures governing intelligence collecting and investigations.
In these investigations, government investigators will almost certainly use the court system to obtain warrants or permits to obtain information directly from the social media platform, but SOCMINT techniques will have already been used to gather the data used to support the issuance of those documents.
SOCMINT Concepts and Terms
The topic of SOCMINT has several intricacies, including the kinds of data that may be obtained and the kinds of platforms that can be utilised to do so.
It is crucial to first grasp that SOCMINT encompasses all social media channels, not only social networking websites. Facebook and LinkedIn are only two examples of the social networking sites that may be used to harvest data. Information may be obtained on social networking sites like Facebook, blogs built using platforms like WordPress, forums like Reddit, image- and video-sharing websites like Pinterest and YouTube, microblogging platforms like Twitter, and social gaming websites like Xbox Live.
Following that, it is critical to understand the sorts of information that may be obtained from social media sites. This data may be divided into three broad categories:
Information About Your Profile
Static information about a certain individual that is visible to people who see the profile. For example, on LinkedIn, this may comprise a user’s work title, current and previous employers, skills, and contact information.
In various ways, users on a social media platform can engage with the platform or other users. Posting/commenting, responding to someone else’s material, posting photographs or videos, and like or reacting to current content are all examples of engagement.
Social media sites host a variety of information, not only text and images. It may also provide background information on the aforementioned types of material. The location that was mentioned in a post, the time it was produced, or even the camera model that was used to shoot the photo can all be considered metadata.
How Does Social Media Intelligence Work?
Information gathered from social media websites, whether manually or automatically, always forms the basis of SOCMINT. By enhancing any primary data connected to social profiles, data enrichment may both make use of SOCMINT data and contribute to SOCMINT investigations.
At the most fundamental level, this can entail manually accessing a user’s profile and collecting information that is readily accessible to the public, such as the user’s location, their connections, their work description, or anything else that is readily accessible online.
This can be advanced in a number of ways using automation. For a variety of objectives, a large range of software solutions—both commercial and open source—can gather and analyse social media data.
- A fraud protection service that compares a customer’s email address to a variety of social networks. This aids in the development of the individual’s social footprint and the identification of any red flags that may suggest fraudulent or otherwise dishonest intents.
- An HR professional who reviews a candidate’s LinkedIn profile and Twitter tweets to assess their degree of knowledge and public activity in their area.
- Market analysts analyse social networks for product evaluations, brand references, and related discussion using social listening systems.
- A law enforcement officer who utilises social media to find out who a suspect’s closest contacts are or where this person has checked in from in order to locate them in relation to a crime.
Many people don’t realise how much more social media data may expose. For instance, submitted images frequently have information indicating the time and location of their capture.
Additionally, when data is gathered and analysed in bulk, it may reveal broad trends and provide better understanding of a demographic, aiding in the segmentation of customers.
What Are the Elements of Social Media Intelligence?
In general, the elements of SOCMINT are the several procedures one would take to employ this research method:
- Data collecting includes any type of data harvesting, such as brand mentions or location information on one or more people.
- Automation: Outside of limited investigation circumstances, SOCMINT often employs some form of automation to allow bulk and low-effort data collecting.
- Data analysis, which is frequently automated, helps organisations and people to get actionable information such as trends and patterns.
- Distribution: This offers enterprises and organisations with useable data and learnings in the form of reports, dashboards, and/or API connection.
Uses for SOCMINT
Social media intelligence has a wide range of applications that are also expanding quickly. SOCMINT has the following useful applications:
Brands’ Social Listening
A business may utilise a social listening system to track mentions of its brand(s) on Facebook or Twitter, which can then be categorised as good, bad, or neutral. They can then take different actions based on this social media information, such as reacting to criticism or determining whether a marketing effort was successful.
Investigations conducted by SOCMINT can help law enforcement authorities find accounts that are disseminating false information or extremist material. They can pinpoint a person’s whereabouts and spot connections between suspect persons.
Although social media intelligence is a vast, real-time, and ever-expanding source of data, its use may be contentious. This is especially true when it extends beyond publicly available, openly accessible data – in other words, when SOCMINT goes beyond OSINT.
SOCMINT, according to Privacy International, “requires more specific regulation, policies, and safeguards that take into account the very unique and specific nature of social media.”
Only data that is freely accessible to the public, for example, may be deemed open source and hence OSINT. A person with a Facebook account often makes a lot more information public to their friends list. The issue of what particular warrant, if any, a law enforcement officer should be authorised to utilise arises if they were to use this information to pose as a suspect’s close friend or relative.
And last, there are concerns about the veracity of social data. Relying on it would entail accepting unreliable information because someone claimed it to be true. Can we even trust the photos, videos, and sounds uploaded on social media in the era of deepfakes?
These and other related queries are not as simple to respond to as one might think. There are still a lot of unanswered questions around SOCMINT, along with privacy-related worries.
Why Is Social Media Intelligence Important?
Social media intelligence is a vast source of granular data that is frequently accurate, publicly available, and can be accessed in real-time. A partial list of what SOCMINT research may achieve is as follows:
- help law enforcement agents obtain evidence and conduct other investigations
- assist in the verification of someone’s identification or operate as a pre-KYC stage to screen out fraudsters
- give assurance that a job candidate is qualified and culturally compatible provide alternative credit scoring or supplementary information for underwriters
- detect scammers posing as satisfied customers
- collect sales lead contact information
- assist with marketing segmentation, such example by locating high-value consumers
- supply organisations with demographic information
SOCMINT has nearly limitless applications. Some individuals even utilise SOCMINT for nefarious objectives, such as determining whether a property is vacant or learning more about a person in order to mimic them.
With so many people utilising social media and new platforms, social media intelligence will only become more valuable.
How Can SOCMINT Prevent Fraud?
Companies may utilise social media analytics to supplement automated fraud protection measures as well as manual fraud analyst evaluations.
Open SOCMINT is frequently used in such processes since it may assist answer issues such if a suspect’s email address is registered on any social media, whether the individual has published any images, their location if shared openly, and so on.
Here’s an illustration of how it can function in practise:
- A consumer who is making an online purchase offers their email address.
- The address is automatically compared to a wealth of publicly available data on social networks to provide answers to questions like: Does the individual have any online accounts?
- Are they based at the address they’ve given?
- Are they frequent users, etc.?
The ability to draw informed judgements and identify red flags is facilitated by this knowledge. An email address that isn’t connected to any social network at all, for instance, would typically be suspect. So would a consumer who claimed to be in the US and was using a credit card that was issued in the US but whose related social media accounts all showed them to be in Asia.
The collected information will help determine the individual’s fraud score, which will determine whether the transaction is automatically approved, rejected, or referred to a fraud analyst for human review.