5 ways to solve the most common social media crimes

Your company has multiple Facebook pages and follows spam bots on Twitter? Get to the bottom of the problem with these tips.


People commit crimes across social media channels every day, hour and second.

What are the crimes?

Sometimes it’s a complete lack of strategic vision or counsel before jumping into social media.

Sometimes it’s a crime of passion—excitement can get the best of people and they leap without planning.

Other times it’s a crime of pure injustice—a company unknowingly puts faith in an ill-equipped social media consultant or agency.

And in other instances, it’s a crime of negligence. A department starts a social media presence and grows it in a silo while upper management turns a blind eye.

Regardless of the reasons for the crime—innocent as they may be—companies emerge a bit scarred and desperate for help from those who have the chops to make it through the crime scene.

Social media forensics

A friend of mine came up with the term social media forensics to describe this process, and it really resonated with me. Like an actual crime scene investigator, it’s not our job to accuse or try the perpetrator, but to reveal the story and see that justice prevails.

I recently stepped into such an investigation, and the evidence of the crime was staggering:

1. Unexplained splatter patterns.

This is probably the most common and telling piece of evidence that proves the lack of a social strategy: posts and social profiles strewn about haphazardly. I identified profiles the client didn’t even know existed. None of the profiles in these accounts were consistent, or even up-to-date with current messaging. And of course, all lacked any sort of optimization.

2. An alibi full of holes.

As I continued my investigation with the client, I uncovered a variety of social media channels where the client publicly indicated it was present, but wasn’t. For instance, the client had an online newsroom that wasn’t linked to the site and that the PR department didn’t use.

3. Multiple—and often mistaken—identities.

This is such a common mistake. A dedicated employee takes it upon himself to build a company Facebook page and, rather than develop a fan page, creates a profile page. As was the case with my client, someone later develops a fan page.

This leaves two identities up and running, and each amassing followers. It’s an added burden to the community manager who has to post superfluous content to each. (See No. 1.)

4. The bloodbath in the closet.

When I started to open doors, like looking behind the Twitter accounts, I discovered more horror. Misguided by old-school marketing rules, many are quick to build a Twitter following in quantity, not quality. This can get ugly.

In my investigation there were two Twitter accounts that both followed hundreds of individuals whom I would classify as spam, bots or porn (my personal “three types who don’t deserve a follow”).

This was an issue because once each account hit 2,000 followers—the follow limit—Twitter blocked them from following anyone new due to an uneven follower to following ratio. Until someone cleans thing up, neither account can follow legitimate sources.

5. Staging of the crime scene.

A solid social strategy includes metrics by which to report on success. There are many tools out there that give you some data and pretty charts, but if this is all your reporting consists of, it’s a lot like staging a crime scene. Both the victim and investigators will be at a loss.

In my case, I learned the client used Klout reports to measure the success of social media efforts. This made me weep inside.

What do you do next?

Like I said, it’s not the job of the crime scene investigator to accuse. But to ensure justice prevails, we can help the victims move on and make sure the body count is low:

1. Conduct an audit of existing profiles.

2. Develop a strategy with a goal, and an implementation plan that includes specific visual and written standards, keywords, key messages, and an editorial calendar.

The reality is you probably don’t have the luxury to stop all activity until you develop a full strategy, so this might happen in tandem with some down and dirty fixes to keep things afloat.

3. Determine which social profiles should remain and, if too many exist, whether it’s time to trim. When it comes to the Facebook fan page/profile issue, you can convert a profile to a fan page. If you have two fan pages you can merge them in theory, but I’m in the middle of it and it’s tricky.

4. Clean up the Twitter following. This is a pretty slow process, unless you want to pay for some clean-up tools. I suggest you unfollow the porn, bots and spam, and organize legitimate followers into lists. After that, it’s up to Twitter to lift the follow limit. That will take some patience.

5. From your investigation, establish benchmarks so the company understands where it is today. Then, based on the goal, establish key metrics by which to measure future efforts. Develop a clear and concise procedure for reporting results and to whom to deliver the reports.

6. Continue the investigation. Nothing is ever done in this space where conversations occur around the clock and platforms change daily. To think you fixed everything is another crime altogether.

Have you done your own social media forensics? What evidence have you seen?

Kary Delaria is a digital communications strategist specializing in social media monitoring, measurement and community engagement.

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