Are You Prepared To Investigate A Social Media Crime Scene?
A complete lack of strategic vision or counsel upon jumping into social media.
Sometimes it’s a crime of passion – excitement can get the best of people and they leap without planning.
Other times, it’s a crime of pure injustice – a company unknowingly puts faith in an ill-equipped social consultant or agency.
And, in other instances, it’s a crime of negligence – a social presence is started within a department and it grows, in a silo, while upper-management turns a blind eye.
Regardless of the reasons for the crime, innocent as they may be, companies emerge a bit scarred and desperate for help from those who have the chops to make it through the crime scene.
Social Media Forensics
A friend of mine came up with this term, social media forensics, to describe this process, and it really resonated with me. Like an actual crime scene investigator, it’s not our job to accuse or try the perpetrator, but to reveal the story and see that justice is served.
I recently stepped into such an investigation and, the evidence of the crime was staggering…
1) Unexplained splatter patterns.
This is probably the most common and telling piece of evidence proving lack of social strategy – posts and social profiles strewn about, haphazardly. I identified profiles that the client didn’t even know existed. None of the profiles in these accounts were consistent, or even up-to-date with current messaging. And of course, all lacked any sort of optimization.
2) An alibi full of holes.
As I continued my investigation with this client, I uncovered a variety of social media channels where they had publicly indicated that they’d be present, but…never showed up. For instance, this particular client had online newsroom that wasn’t linked to the site or being utilized by the PR department.
3) Multiple, and often mistaken, identities.
Such a common mistake…a dedicated employee takes it upon themselves to build a company Facebook page, and, rather than developing a fan page, created a profile page. And, as was the case with my client, a fan page was later developed, leaving two identities up and running, amassing followers to each one with added burden to the Community Manager to post superfluous content to each (see #1).
4) The bloodbath in the closet.
When I started to open doors like taking a look behind the Twitter accounts, I discovered more horror. Misguided by old-school marketing rules, many are quick to build a Twitter following in quantity, not quality. And, this can get ugly. In my investigation, there were two Twitter accounts, following hundreds of individuals that I would classify as spam, bot, or porn (my personal “3 types who don’t deserve a follow”).
This became an issue because once each account hit 2,000 followers and hit the follow limit. Twitter blocked them from being able to follow anyone new due to uneven follower to following ratio. Until things are cleaned up, neither account can follow legitimate sources.
5) Staging the crime scene.
A solid social strategy will include metrics by which to report on success. There are many tools out there that will give you some data and pretty charts, but if this is ALL your reporting consists of, it’s a lot like staging a crime scene, leaving both the victim and the investigators at a loss. In my case, I learned that Klout reports were being used to measure success of the social media efforts. (And yes…this made me weep inside.)
So, with the evidence mounting, what do you do next?
Like I said, it’s not the job of the crime scene investigator to accuse. But, to ensure justice is served, we can help the victims move on and help make sure that the body count in the community is low…
- Conduct an audit of existing profiles.
- Develop a strategy (with a GOAL) and implementation plan that includes specific visual and written standards, keywords and key messages and an editorial calendar. (The reality is, you probably don’t have the luxury to stop all activity until a full strategy has been developed, so this might be happening in tandem with some down and dirty fixes to keep things afloat.)
- Determine which social profiles should remain, and whether or not it’s time to do some trimming if too many exist. When it comes to the Facebook fan page/profile issue, you can take steps to convert a profile to a fan page. When and if you have two fan pages, they can, in theory, be merged. (But I gotta say, I’m in the middle of it and it’s tricky.)
- Clean up the Twitter following. And this, unfortunately, is a pretty slow process (unless you want to pay for some clean-up tools). I suggest unfollowing the porn, bots and spam while organizing the legitimate followers into lists. After that, it’s up to Twitter as far as when to lift the following-back limit. That will take some patience.
- From your investigation, establish benchmarks so the company understands where they are today. Then, based on the goal, establish key metrics by which to measure future efforts. Develop a clear and concise procedure for reporting and to whom the reports will be delivered.
- Continue the investigation. Nothing is ever done in this space where conversations occur around the clock and platforms change daily. To think you’ve fixed it all and it’s perfect is another crime altogether.
Have you done your own social forensics? What evidence have you seen in these cases?
Kary Delaria is a digital communications strategist specializing in social media monitoring, measurement and community engagement.
Image by Tex Texin via Creative Commons