‘On the same page’: Social media intelligence, and why it matters

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What is social media intelligence? Simply defined, social media intelligence is the collection, curation, and analysis of online media data to answer a specific question or provide useful insights into the actions, habits and motivations of an individual or group.

Moreover, social media intelligence can be used to learn a lot about the world in which we live. In an era when the majority of U.S. adults use social media, it is clear that you can learn a lot about most people by studying their online habits.

We all intuitively know that social media use is widespread and pervasive, but perhaps it’s useful to discuss just how deeply embedded it is in our modern day-to-day lives. The following statistics, gathered and reported by the Pew Research Center this spring, show just how much a part of our culture social media has become.

Social media use facts and statistics

  • The top eight social media platforms are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube. Roughly three-quarters of the public use more than one channel; the average American uses three or more social media platforms.
  • More than half of people report that they visit a social media channel at least daily, and almost the same number said they visit more than once per day.
  • The top three social media platforms used by U.S. adults are Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
  • YouTube is the most popular social sharing site, used by nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults and 94 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds. (Although it is a video-sharing site, YouTube contains many social sharing elements.)
  • Facebook is the most popular social channel, used by 68 percent of adults across age groups. (No other social channel, outside of YouTube, tops 40 percent.)
  • As you would expect, social media use is higher for younger users: 88 percent of 18-29 year olds use social media; 78 percent of adults aged 30-49; 64 percent of adults aged 50-64; and 35 percent for adults 65 and older.
  • Social media popularity can also be studied by gender, ethnicity, and household income. For example, Pinterest is most popular with women. WhatsApp has a large following in Latin America and the U.S. Latino community. LinkedIn is used most commonly in households with a higher income level.

Based on those statistics, you can see just how much information is passing through online media each day. And that is, as they say, just the tip of the iceberg.

Why social media intelligence and evidence matters

Because of the vast web of information and data being created on a daily basis, social media intelligence has developed as a discipline to study and understand online behaviors.

It is safe to think of social media intelligence as a way to gather information, use what is learned to profile subjects, and use evidence and reason to understand the big picture. It is the data-driven analysis of behaviors, completed by humans with insights, creativity and awareness that an algorithm wouldn’t provide.

For that reason, skilled social media analysts are necessary to not only gather that information, but also interpret the whole social media story. Simple data collection using an algorithm isn’t enough. It takes a skilled, certified analyst to interpret and understand the data collected.

Because correct interpretation and understanding is key to accuracy, social media intelligence gathering done in the United States must also be done by analysts based in the U.S., with a deep understanding of the language and culture of the country and internet.

This is even more important when you consider that social media evidence can be altered, deleted, and locked down through use of privacy settings. It takes a skilled social media data analyst, trained in discovery and preservation of online evidence to ensure court admissibility, to overcome these obstacles.

The type of evidence collected by social media intelligence is becoming ever more critical for use in a number of fields. If you are interested in learning more about how a trained, certified SMI Aware analyst can help you make use of this growing field of science, we invite you to visit our website or reach out to us directly.