The Minefield of Social Media
Traditionally, minefields aren’t known as a place to find yourself. As a PI, a social minefield is oftentimes a GREAT place to jumpstart your investigation. It is a literal treasure trove of information right at your fingertips. But, do you really know how to use social media to your advantage and aid in your investigation?
Currently, there are 3.2 billion users of the various social media platforms. That equates to 42% of the population. There are so many social media platforms and to list them all here would be exhaustive. The top 7 by use are Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Twitter. Venmo, the mobile payment service that allows you to share payments with friends, is just another new avenue P.I.’s are using to mine for information. That list can change in a day. Are you familiar with all of these platforms? They should all be on your radar as potential sources of information, whether it be through photographs, posts, geotags, hashtags, key word searches, check-ins etc.
To be successful in social media investigations, you have to know how to navigate the various platforms. You need to know the lingo for each platform, its nuances, the type of demographic that is drawn to each site (because they are different…very different). We find these skills very hard to teach, if not impossible. This might be the one area where it comes as second nature and either you have it or you don’t.
Enter your newest team member…a social media investigator. Of all of the many other things you have on your plate, this one hire could be a game-changer for you. A social media investigator looks into social media posts whether it be through photographs, status updates, geotags, hashtags, key word searches, check-ins etc. These investigative tools could be relevant to your case and also used as evidence in a variety of court cases. They are able to create accounts on social media platforms to use in their searches.. They can set up Google Alerts and Social Mention accounts which will alert the investigator when a subject’s name is used on social media. Employers often hire P.I.’s to run background social media checks to assess potential risk of a prospective employee. It can provide alibis, and in one famous case, cleared a man of a murder charge.
This is the one area where if you don’t know what you’re doing or if you just aren’t social media savvy, you need to hire someone who DOES know what they are doing and ARE social media savvy. It is still a fairly new “investigative field” and you don’t want to leave it to a casual user who can simply navigate Facebook or pull up a video on Youtube. You want a professional. You need a professional.