The discipline of SOCMINT (Social Media Intelligence) can be divided into two:
- Social Media Analysis. Which encompasses the methods and tools to obtain and analyze text, photos, videos, and any material shared on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, or Snapchat.
- Social Network Analysis (SNA). This term encompasses methods and tools for analyzing social network data. Intelligence services, law enforcement agencies, and even bad actors monitor and investigate the data extracted from them to prevent (or initiate) crimes.
What is SOCMINT?
Social networks are a source of information for all types of organizations, whether they are police, military, or business, which has led to the rise of the intelligence discipline called SOCMINT (Social Media Intelligence). SOCMINT, in theory, should provide intelligence based on the information obtained from these social networks.
Social network analysis is an arithmetic technique that analyzes relational patterns of nodes (actors) and connections (links) based on mathematical and statistical calculations. These calculations result in measurements (or parameters) of structural networks that quantify:
- The characteristics of social network activity.
- The social roles of the nodes in the network.
- The positions of the nodes in the network and what they mean.
The Purpose of SOCMINT Analysis
Social media analysis has a broad array of utilization. This includes: identifying terrorist groups, business competitors, investigating organized crime, disinformation, or monitoring the reputation of a brand or person.
Proper SOCMINT analysis can make it easier to:
- Detect and interpret patterns of social links between actors.
- Identify supporters and activists, as well as potential network leaders and their capacity to influence online communities.
- Interconnections between social networks.
- Identify the impact (benefits or constraints) of the social structure of identities or individuals.
SOCMINT analysts generally follows these guidelines:
- Plan the collection and strategy while taking into account other techniques from the OSINT field.
- Evaluate and analyze the information obtained, which may lead you to obtain new information. This will require the application of other analysis techniques.
- Produce a timely, accurate and reliable intelligence knowledge report that meets the initial information needs.
- In short, it is a joint man-machine work that must be complemented with information coming from other sources. It is also necessary to consider that SOCMINT is often a preliminary strategy and is followed up with additional intel techniques.
LIMITATIONS IN THE ANALYSIS OF SOCIAL NETWORKS
Social networks have their limits as a source of intelligence. Many of these excluding factors are:
- They depend on what the users themselves post.
- They can be avoided by interest groups that do not want to communicate through open social network channels.
- Information obtained from social networks must be complemented, and in many cases confirmed, with data obtained from other sources.
The social media analyst should be precise on six questions:
Who: Who are you looking at, a person or an organization?
What: Is there an event or group?
When: In what period of time?
Where: Are there geographical boundaries? Different networks?
Why: What information are we trying to get from this analysis?
How: How do we do it?
Finally, the analyst must be aware that using intuition, research skills, and specialized software isn’t the end-all; it must be complemented with other analysis techniques to achieve satisfactory results.
These techniques can and should include pattern and supplemental analysis, stakeholder analysis, hypothesis testing, scenario development, and associated indicators or cause-and-effect and influence diagrams.
SOCMINT can be a robust skill set when used alongside open-source intelligence research.