monitoring Archives - Harris Social Media

Could social media monitoring have predicted and helped avert Egypt’s crisis?

on Jan 29 in blogging, facebook, monitoring, News, politics, social media, thought leaders, Twitter posted by

Egyptian protester (Reuters)Much of the press coverage of Egypt’s present meltdown has concerned the influence of social media. Organizers used Twitter, Facebook and other channels to get out their message and instigate a popular uprising.

Egyptian authorities belatedly recognized the power of social media on Wednesday last week. They cut off access to Internet sites such as Twitter and Facebook, according to the UK Guardian news site.

Evidently social media has been an essential tool for protesters to coordinate their efforts. Egypt had already cracked down on bloggers, and according to the Guardian piece, “in 2009 the Committee to Protect Journalists listed Egypt as one of the 10 worst countries for bloggers because of the tendency to arrest [government] critics.”

Such a heavy-handed dictatorial approach betrays a profound lack of understanding about social media’s power to communicate ideas.

Is it possible, with better understanding of social media, that this crisis could have been averted?

Sophisticated social media monitoring tools could easily have picked up “buzz” weeks or even months before protesters took to the streets. Social media monitoring would have given the Egyptian government the chance to evaluate the response to its proactive measures and to adjust its policies accordingly.

A proactive approach might have afforded the Egyptian government time to react with conciliatory measures. Monitoring could have identified thought leaders and influencers, to whom the government could have reached out with an olive branch. Would they have avoided the type of instinctive crackdown that contributed to the present crisis? Maybe not. But in any case, social media monitoring would have helped the government judge the zeitgeist and to take appropriate pre-emptive action. Instead, they are now on the defensive, and if history is any lesson, have already lost.

The Mubarak government missed the opportunity to manage change gradually. For such lack of leadership, perhaps they deserve what’s coming.

Could social media monitoring have prevented Arizona shooting tragedy?

on Jan 12 in monitoring, politics, psychology, social media, statistics, tools posted by

We’re all saddened by the tragic events in Arizona last weekened. Of course, media pundits have been busy assigning blame. And politicos have been equally busy fending off any patina of guilt. 

And of course, social commentators, psychologists and criminologists are pondering how to detect and prevent such heinous crimes. Gun control, screening mental patients, etc. are among the proposed suggestions.

But one stone unturned at this the point is the possibility of using social media monitoring to detect potential threats. Once detected, the threat can be further analyzed using the powerful statistical capabilities of these monitoring tools.

While it’s unlikely such events can ever be prevented with 100% certainty, here’s how social media monitoring (Radian, Alterian, etc.) could help identify and minimize threats.

1. These individuals want to be seen and heard. Jared Loughner, the alleged perpetrator of the Arizona shooting had created disturbing YouTube videos. He also had a MySpace page. Social media provides an outlet for the lonely, disenfranchised, attention-craving individual who might tend toward antisocial or criminal acts. Social media monitoring could profile such individuals and at least place them on a watch list.

2. Use of social media location-based apps could help track movements of such individuals. For example, if someone on the watch list posted a Facebook update that they were going to kill such-and-such and then Foursquare showed they have checked-in at a gun store, that would certainly be a red flag.

3. The monitoring could be provided by the social media monitoring companies as a service to society, rather than just getting us to buy more widgets or to cover corporate asses. Or government could invest in such a service.

It’s about time to use the technology we have and the typical behaviors of such individuals to minimize the likelihood of a similar tragedy.

Is social media monitoring a bubble?

on Apr 04 in business, monitoring, reputation management, tools, trends posted by

Image courtesy of WikipediaAaron Koh, Social Media Director at That Social PR Agency, posted an interesting question on LinkedIn: Is social media monitoring a gold mine or a bubble?

During my work developing social media strategies for a variety of clients, I have had the opportunity to review the social media monitoring space in some detail.

Yes, there are a lot of companies jumping on the bandwagon. Some of the free services are useful. Used appropriately, they can meet the needs of many situations. Who hasn’t heard of Google Alerts? (List of free tools.) But some free services, while enticing, seem inaccurate at best, or even misleading. Larger enterprises will most likely need to consider paid solutions.

The big players (Techrigy, Radian6, Nielsen, Filtrbox, etc.) will likely buy out the best of the small scale solutions. (See Nathan Gilliat’s excellent Guide to Social Media Analysis for a list of companies offering paid solutions for social media monitoring.) 

My sense is that the trend will shift away from technological solutions and to the human element. A monitoring program can alert you to a mention or conversation. It can even indicate whether it’s positive or negative. But software can’t tell you how to respond.

The nuances of building relationships through social media simply cannot be left to software. And even humans get it woefully wrong as Nestle’s recent social media disaster on Facebook testifies. Monitoring is important but experienced people with the expertise to manage specific situations will always be needed.

To answer Aaron’s question, the plethora of sub-par social media monitoring tools suggest a bubble is growing. The bubble will deflate in due course. But as with most bubbles, the strong players will survive and most likely come out even stronger.

Questions about the CIA monitoring social media buzz

on Oct 20 in facebook, google, linkedin, monitoring, search, social media, technology, Twitter posted by

Advertising Age today reported on government investment in online social media monitoring tools. This enables the CIA, among other government agencies, to listen to your conversations on your favorite social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on.

Some questions arise:

  • First, will the CIA really find any actionable intelligence? And even if they do, will they know how to respond?
  • Second, what kinds of privacy issues are at stake? While anything on the public timeline seems fair game, what about direct messaging, which is supposed to be private? (To my mind, searching DMs is equivalent to tapping a phone line.) It seems to me that a prospective terrorist would not be dumb enough to post anything incriminating on the public timeline. That said, a couple of high profile incidents emerged recently where crooks were nabbed as a result of carelessness using Facebook. (e.g., Thief logs into Facebook at scene of crime) But this kind of thing is small beans for the CIA (maybe not the FBI).
  • Third, given the kinds of uncertainties, is this an approriate use of taxpayer money? Do these services offer much more than what could be achieved configuring searches on Google? It seems a fair bet to me that the CIA could monitor enough innocuous data on social media that they may be able to pick up encrypted or disguised messages. In that case, such expenditures would be appropriate. But if they’re just on a fishing expedition, on the chance something might turn up, perhaps a more strategic approach would be warranted.

I wonder if this like a company deciding, oh let’s get into social media because everyone else is, and then falling flat on their face.