Saturday, May 18, 2013

Advanced Social Media Research Tools & Resources

Earlier this week I delivered Episode 56 of my social media research presentation to a major P&C insurer's enterprise risk prevention committee or group.  That was the 56th time I've spoken on the potential value of SM content to insurance and law enforcement industry groups since May of 2010 when the good folks out at the Rocky Mountain IASIU Chapter had me present what I then suspected might be or become a popular topic.  It was and has and continues to be so. 

Much has changed in my presentation over the past three years.  New social networks have emerged and ascended onto the Top 10 list of most popular SN sites, while some of the original Top 10 sites have slipped in the rankings.  And new techniques, tools and resources have appeared to assist SM researchers in their efforts to find, secure, verify and then utilize SM content in responsible business decision making.  For those who have not attended one of my more recent episodes, in no particular order here are some of my favorite newcomers to the SM research party:


Twitter has grown in popularity and use since May 2010 and much content that once was deposited onto a Facebook page or wall now gets blasted out into the Internet 140 characters at a time.  Spotting and finding those contrails of relevant SM content have become somewhat easier. 

In the last five or so episodes of my SM research presentation I have told the story of finding and then reporting what likely is an actual case of  a fraudulent insurance claim.  I run a Twitter aggregator called TweetDeck, which enables me to monitor from my desktop and laptop computers my two Twitter accounts, key words, hash tags, and individual Twitter users who may be under investigation.  There are other Twitter aggregators out there, but I prefer TweetDeck. 

In preparing for one of my recent SM research presentations I noticed an interesting tweet in my TweetDeck’s “Insurance Fraud” column, which pulls in any English-language tweet that contains the words insurance fraud.  After a bit of basic SM research, I had what appeared to be an actual outing of someone’s fraudulent auto physical damage claim.  I called and then emailed the tweet links to the local special investigator of the auto insurer identified in one of the tweets, and I understand he confirmed that the insured had made a stolen-recovered-crashed claim when in fact a Twitter account bearing his name and likeness admitted to having crashed his car while drunk.  Getting a twitter account and using an aggregator like TweetDeck can make Twitter research and monitoring easier and more efficient. 


Have you ever tried to find someone’s old tweets?  For unprotected Twitter accounts try All MyTweets, which will display up to approximately 3,200 of the account’s most recent tweets on one page.  Unfortunately, Twitter limits the number of tweets Twitter API (Application Programming Interface) services such as All My Tweets can retrieve to 3,200, and I have yet to find a way around that limitation.  Also, if a person has at some point changed their unprotected Twitter account to a protected Twitter account, compilers such as All My Tweets won’t work.  Nonetheless, displaying an unprotected Twitter account’s last 3,200 tweets on one page enables word searching (Ctrl+F or Command+F) on that page for key terms.  Try it.  Tweet Tunnel and Snap Bird do essentially the same thing as All My Tweets, but in bunches rather than all on one page.  They are also limited to approximately 3,200 tweets. 

For word-specific or phrase-specific Twitter searches, try Twitter’s Advanced Search engine.  I use this page frequently for searching tweets to or mentioning certain accounts, especially when the 3,200-tweet limit tweet compilers like All My Tweets prevents me from finding older tweets of an active Twitter account.  I also use the “To these accounts” or “Mentioning these accounts” Advanced Search fields to find tweets to or mentioning persons who have protected Twitter accounts.  Valuable substantive or relational information can sometimes be found from such “to” or “mentioning” tweets. 


Location-enabled tweets can carry data that provide the means of determining where the device that broadcast the tweet was located at the time.   Creepy remains an interesting and useful geolocation data aggregator for Twitter, although it can be buggy at times and works only on PCs. 

There are other methods for conducting location-based Twitter searches.  If you want to find tweets about a particular word or phrase within a particular radius of a particular town or city, enter the desired word in a Twitter search bar followed by “near:[city,state] within:[x]mi”, like this:  arson near:Buffalo,NY within:50mi

If you want to search around an actual address, use GoogleMaps or another mapping site to obtain and copy the X- and Y- geocoordinates ofthe address then use the following search nomenclature: [key word] geocode:[geocoordinates],Xmi” into a Twitter search box, replacing the geocoordinates with the location you want to search and the “X” with the radius of your desired search in miles.  For example, the search term for searching “insurance fraud” within 10 miles of my office would be: "insurancefraud" geocode:42.886496,-78.873358,10mi 

Bing Maps also offers a method of viewing recent tweets at or around a particular location.  Best accessed through IE or Safari (the “explore map apps” menu option does not appear when using Chrome), Bing’s Twitter Maps app, when it works, offers another easy method of viewing recent tweets near a particular location.  Here’s what recent tweets near my office in Buffalo, New York look like.  Be sure to search the address before loading the Twitter Maps app.   


Facebook recently rolled out its Graph Search feature, which is still in beta.  Why should you consider requesting and trying Graph Search Beta?  Because it will significantly enhance your search capabilities within Facebook.  For example, you find an individual’s FB page but it is friends-only protected and your company does not allow pretexting.  Dead end?  Maybe not.  With Graph Search (which FB just earlier this week enabled on my FB account after I applied several weeks ago) you would be able to search for photos of the person appearing on other persons’ FB pages.  What once required a time-consuming manual search through an individual’s friends’ pages and photo albums can now be done in a single search using FB’s Graph Search toolbar.  I can’t think of a single reason why any investigator who does SM research would NOT want to sign up for FB’s Graphic Search. 


Approximately a year ago I began incorporating reverse image searching into all of my SM research projects.  Google offers an excellent reverse image search engine that can locate additional SN and web sites on which an individual’s image appears.  Once you have the URL of an online image or have downloaded an image onto your computer, use Google Images search engine to find that image elsewhere on the Internet.

Another reverse image search engine I use is Tin Eye.  Works pretty much the same way as Google Images’ reverse image search engine, but Tin Eye found only two matches for this image of me whereas Google Images found five matches

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If anyone who reads this post has any other advanced SM research tools or resources they would like to share, please do so in the comments to this post.  Updated and tweaked versions of both my basic and advanced SM research presentations are available now and either are or can be coming to your area soon.  If you would like either or both presentations for your organization or company, contact me here.  

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