Defense contractors who monitor social media are getting valuable information to ensure security and better engage with stakeholders and detractors.
This is a guest post by Patrick Herridge, Chief Operating Officer of Social360, a London-based social media monitoring and intelligence firm with defence industry clients.
Social media monitoring is rapidly becoming a default service for any major business. Whilst these tools were initially seen as largely of use for consumer facing brands, more and more B2B companies are now recognising their worth. This is nowhere more true than in the defence sector, where there are a range of ways in which monitoring the social web can bring to light valuable information.
The applications for social monitoring in the defence sector are, however, potentially different from those for other brands. Defence, like other potentially controversial market sectors, has its own set of reasons for potentially looking at a monitoring solution.
In our experience of working with a huge range of companies in defence and other controversial markets, Social360 has seen some clear use cases where monitoring the social web has delivered real value.
One of the most powerful applications of social monitoring for a corporate is in an early warning capacity. Issues can arise and be discussed on social media long before they hit the mainstream, giving companies the ability to prepare and defend against them before they become critical. The head of communications at a major financial services business told me that they now turn to their social media monitoring before their press clippings when they get into the office as, they argued, they already knew what was going to be in the papers that day, but they didn’t know what the social web was going to offer up.
As an employee at a defence contractor it would generally be assumed that a policy of discretion would best be adopted when using the social web on a personal or even professional basis. However, this is not universally recognised by staff within the industry. More than once we’ve picked up conversations from or amongst employees in highly sensitive positions which have clearly breached confidentiality. For example, whilst I’m sure the security guard at a US nuclear power plant was excited that his entire team was off-site for a training day, this was maybe not something that he should have tweeted to the world at large!
For publicly listed defence contractors, particularly those with a large retail shareholder base, social monitoring can give investor relations teams real-time insight into what their investors are thinking. Whether it’s the day traders on investment discussion forums discussing their views on a stock, or an analyst at a major fund announcing their thoughts on twitter, major investment processes are increasingly being discussed and revealed on the public social web.
Protests are increasingly a fact of life in the defence industry, and in many other markets which face challenges in public understanding. These protests are also increasingly coordinated, discussed and promoted via social media, giving companies and security organisations the chance to either engage with the organisers in a constructive way or, if this is not possible, to prepare themselves appropriately for the upcoming threat. As an example, when a wave of protests reached London in October last year, through monitoring appropriate channels, we were able to warn our clients of the risk three days before police warnings were issued to companies in danger.
A more positive application of social media can be in measuring the impact of companies’ corporate social responsibility programmes. CSR programmes often do not, and may not be intended to, generate mainstream publicity and this can make their impact hard to measure. However, positive sentiment from participants and observers can be picked up from the social web, giving defence companies a clear ROI case for continued investment in these activities.
One phenomenon that has arisen along with social media is the non-traditional influencer. As blogs and twitter have given writers of all sorts, not just traditional media, a platform, then there are a range of new voices that a company needs to take into account. What’s more, these influencers can arise overnight. When we were monitoring for BP during the Gulf spill this trend was clear, with experts in geology, drilling and even concrete science suddenly becoming overnight social media stars and thus major influencers of the mainstream story.
There are clearly as many ways of using social media monitoring as there are companies who use the technology. What is clear, however, is that monitoring presents a unique new opportunity for companies in any sector. For the first time businesses can now gain a direct and unmediated insight into what the public are thinking and saying about them, good or bad. This can help companies prepare for the worst but also to help build for the best.
Social360 provides social media monitoring and intelligence for corporations, providing insights into how their clients are viewed by online communities.
Social360's proprietary technology identifies relevant conversations on the social web (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, forums, etc.) and these results are then filtered and analysed by a team of human editors, with relevant communications and sector experience, into concise reports that deliver targeted, pertinent information into an immediately actionable format.