Social Media – networking and sharing of breaking news, gossip, pictures, videos, music, and just about everything else – has become a part of daily life for many people. Social media sites house this information about you, your firm, your clients and their businesses. Even if you don’t actively participate in social media, the information can be vital in fact gathering and monitoring. Let’s look at some of the available tools to make that happen.
Social Media Search
For researching what people are doing, saying, and revealing about themselves, searching social media sites is imperative. Blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo, MySpace, Plaxo, and most other popular social media sites offer built in search tools. Lawyers should not forget these as valuable places to search, though they must be careful to avoid “pretexting” or using means to coerce or deceive someone into giving access to a private social media profile. Google’s primary search engine will pick up some social media content, primarily blogs and public LinkedIn information, as do Bing and other search engines. Google’s new Search Plus Your World adds content from your Google+ streams, if you are logged into Google. However, there are other ways to search multiple social sites en masse which may offer different and possibly better results.
While aggregate social media search engines are in their infancy, there are a few out there to explore. One is Whos Talkin, which aggregates search from many popular social networking sites. Another is Social Mention, offering a similar search function, and is significantly speedier and more effective than Who’s Talking.
For more focused social media searching sites like YourOpenBook (note: quote including profanity from Marc Zuckerburg on this page) that searches Facebook information that is not marked private, gives a deeper dive into Facebook. Similarly Twazzup and Topsy search Twitter, and Blinkx searches video content in Hulu, YouTube, as well as news and media outlets (note: adult filter is on by default).
Other sites offer people searches, and focus on finding people results in white pages, public records, business records and social media sites. These search sites include ZoomInfo, PiPL, YoName, Folowen, Snitch.name and Spokeo. Keep in mind that you will need to do additional research, as these directories match against name only, which is an inexact science. Additionally, similar “reality checks” need to be followed if you choose to use any of the public records searches available with some of these tools.
Social Media Monitoring
Social media management tools like Hootsuite, Social Oomph, and TweetDeck will help you monitor activity by keywords and account names in multiple social media channels. However, if your monitoring needs are infrequent or changeable, there are a number of social media search tools that offer alerts via email or RSS. In Addictomatic you can do a keyword search, and results are displayed in boxes for each of the social media outlets. You can even rearrange the boxes to put the sites you are most interested in at the top. Then simply bookmark the page in your browser and visit it again to see updated results. Kurrently searches only Facebook and Twitter, and offers an RSS feed for your saved searches. Social Mention offers alerts, and Whos Talkin has an iGoogle gadget.
Backing Up Social Media
While there are many ways to get back into social media content, the information is vast and fleeting. You may have a need to capture and keep social media content, either for your firm, or your client, as backup, as a record of interactions, or to ensure compliance with a social media policy. You may have heard of the “Wayback Machine” aka The Internet Archive, which records pages of certain webpages and archives them. The problem with this site is that it is inconsistent as to which sites it archives, and for how long. For lawyers who want to take control of monitoring and storing webpage content, enter Iterasi. This tool bills itself as a corporate compliance, litigation protection, compliance, and brand heritage tool. It is not free, but for lawyers and companies who need this type of service, it can be invaluable. It is a web archiving tool that will “scrape” the screens of even complex websites, as well as capturing RSS feeds, topics discussed in social networks, and any website the user happens to visit. The company provides several discrete products, one web archiving tool, a social media monitoring application, and a “notary” tool to archive individual pages on the fly. Similar to Iterasi, NextPoint’s Preservation Cloud crawls and archives specific web properties – blogs, social media sites, webpages. You can tag, export, and search the data collected. Like Iterasi, this is a “cloud” tool, so the data is stored on external servers, which does introduce some risk in using the service, while making it easy to sign up and get going as there is no installation or configuration.
Whether or not you are using social media as marketing or networking tool, lawyers can’t ignore the vast amount of information stored in these portals. Whether your needs are fact gathering, monitoring, or current awareness there are plenty of tools in the social media ecosystem to help you stay on top of the game.