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Using Social Media to Evade Crisis and Drive Effective Response

by Brian Sims

Social media is fast becoming the preferred communication tool for the masses, observes Tim Willis. According to Pew Research, 69% of all American adults now use at least one social media site. This is up from just 5% in 2005 and 50% in 2011, which means that adoption continues on an upward trend. In the past, information flowed from news organisations or officials to the public, but social media has empowered every individual to easily share information as well. A nearly equal two-way news dialogue in which individuals play an unprecedented role has emerged.

For those operating in the corporate security sphere, this has created a navigational challenge. There’s tremendous value in harnessing the power of this rapid information flow, and particularly so from first-person sources, in order to inform appropriate response efforts. However, realising that potential is daunting without the ability to meaningfully monitor the expansive volume of real-time information that’s being shared every second of every day.

Filtering through the noise

Twitter sees more than 500 million new tweets posted per day. Finding and separating the potential alert signals from the noise, identifying the tweet that’s relevant from the unnecessary information – the latter being tweets about pets, friends, television shows and pop culture, etc – could make all the difference in terms of corporate security operations.

Sorting through social media manually is incredibly cumbersome, and even with the best analysts and a fully-staffed Global Security Operations Centre, the process still requires significant manpower in a current climate where most organisations are experiencing resource reduction. Relying on keyword searches may result in blind spot vulnerabilities.

Bystanders are often the best first indicators of a rising crisis, but what has been identified as a corporate keyword may not be a term of choice for the average social media poster. Warnings of a serious issue could be severely delayed simply due to lexicon choice.

Having a robust monitoring tool in place that cuts through the clutter to detect relevant content is essential for processing the vast data streams into alerts that are manageable and actionable for security teams.

Virtual feet on the ground across the globe

The corporate security teams of large multinational organisations as well as smaller companies with staff travelling internationally require high level visibility into global events. For their part, smaller companies are often resource constrained and lack the luxury of time to scour local news reports from multiple locations and stay on top of every breaking event, much less do so proactively and in real-time.

Larger teams with broader staff coverage may need to drill down into subset areas or highly specific locations that don’t ordinarily generate much attention from mainstream news. Still, the information is out there. According to the social media research firm We Are Social, global social media use has increased by 21% in just the last 12 months, reaching 2.8 billion users globally. There’s a pressing need for information to be both quickly triaged and rendered free from any language barriers if it can be effectively put to use in keeping today’s organisations safe.

A highly customisable social media solution like Dataminr can help in easily identifying incidents that might require reaction or response by serving as the corporate security monitoring and alert system. Dataminr removes the burden of proactive searching, but is flexible enough to allow the customisation of focus areas and the assignment of urgency thresholds, differentiating the seriousness of a given situation.

Translation capabilities have been built into the platform covering 76 languages in order to save corporate security teams vast amounts of time by eliminating the need for manual translations in what is an increasingly global world.

Protecting people, property, products and brand position

Social media and technology go hand in hand, creating numerous potential opportunities for breaches resulting from the over-sharing of information. With nearly all social media users carrying smart phones in their pockets, the corporate security implications are wide-reaching for multiple business units.

Executive Protection

Public figures are newsworthy, and fans often try to take photos when spotting them out on the town. With the tap of a button, the information is pushed out to followers who then share with their followers, and so it goes on. While the intent may be innocent, a photo capturing tail number and destination of an aeroplane or an executive entering a hotel could put the principal at risk.

On a more sinister level, social media is being used to make public threats against companies and individuals. If you’re the close protection team in the field, how important is it to know immediately that your principal’s location is now public knowledge?

Intellectual Property Protection

Original content production, in the form of everything from film scripts through to engineering plans, is the very foundation of business growth. When investing in the development of new products, that Intellectual Property must be adequately protected from public disclosure or risk endangering its ultimate value.

Since social media is used to widely disseminate protected information, content protection teams understand that they must have a social media strategy in place that’s capable of detecting leaked information in real-time.

Supply Chain Logistics Protection

A shortage of resources or a shipping delay can be quite expensive for supply chain management. For example, if a shipment of goods in transit along a major roadway encounters an accident that closes the roadway and forces transport to take a longer alternative route, production schedules would be negatively impacted, costing both time and money.

Timely awareness of the event allows for an earlier re-route. Social media can help you gain visibility into such highly specific areas of interest, unlike news that’s typically surfaced through traditional information streams.

Brand Protection

Tim Willis

Tim Willis

Social media exposes companies to new reputational risks, as millions of customers have access to an instant sounding board to lodge very public complaints. Typically, the PR or customer support teams are tasked with being the fast, first responders. Comprehensive monitoring to gain early insight into unfavourable situations allows companies the ability to remain ahead of and contain public outcry.

For example, if the public has an unfavourable response to a company’s new advertising campaign, that criticism will inevitably appear on social media. Real-time identification of the issue will allow the company to adjust course and respond accordingly.

Minimising the impact

The main function of corporate security is to keep an organisation, its people and its products safe from harm. Dataminr removes a blindfold, allowing unprecedented insight into a vast information source through manageable and customisable real-time alerts, subsequently arming you and your team with the information you need at your fingertips in order to evade – and rapidly respond to – an impending crisis.

Tim Willis is Director of Corporate Security Sales (EMEA) at Dataminr

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