Posts Tagged ‘Forrester Research’

How people socialize online

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

By now, news stories about online criminal investigation are commonplace, from finding graffiti taggers to collecting gang intelligence.

But where do the social network users come from, and how do they use their favorite sites? These are important questions, whether you are trying to understand your community’s overall demographics, or specifically address criminal activity.

From spectators to creators

ladderIn 2007 think tank Forrester Research came up with the graphic on the right (explained most recently in this post). Rather than showing segmented user groups, the Social Technographics Ladder demonstrates a progression of behavior, from “inactive” (bottom rung) to “creators” (top rung), so that behaviors overlap.

What does this mean for law enforcement? Lots of things. Although it’s generic (Forrester has completed profiles for specific companies and industries about their customers), it’s a good start for investigators and administrators who want to understand victims and criminals alike.

First, only 17% of U.S. adults who are online are inactive in social media. From the standpoint of victims, they’re still at risk from email phishing, for instance, or other forms of identity theft.

But they’re not as at risk as Facebook or Twitter users, for instance, who are more exposed to “bad” links that send them to phishing sites, or surreptitiously download keylogger and other malware to their computers.

Criminals, meanwhile, are becoming bolder and more active. They may not so much be “curating” content—collecting, say, tips and techniques—as sharing and creating it, largely for the sake of having “bragging rights.” Witness the copious photos of drug and gun stashes on MySpace.

A full spectrum of social networks

convoprismembedThe other graphic law enforcement can make use of is the Conversation Prism, a graphic designed by public relations professionals Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas. The Prism shows not just the wide variety of social networks out there, but also groups them into categories by use type.

The circular spectrum is a good way to visualize how social networks fit and the many ways users have to create and share content, according to their behavior as shown on the Social Technographics Ladder.

Additionally, at the Prism’s core are shown the value of these uses: ongoing feedback and insight, crisis communications and PR/marketing and customer support, all revolving around an organization’s brand. This is important to law enforcement agencies, but also valuable when applied to criminal organizations, such as gangs or narcotics networks.

And no, investigators do not have to create or maintain accounts on every single one of these sites. That would be cost-prohibitive. They should, however, maintain awareness—of these and of new popular sites—and be prepared to go where the investigation leads.

What online networking behaviors have you observed among criminals you investigate?

Christa M. Miller is Vere Software’s marketing/public relations consultant. She specializes in law enforcement and digital forensics and can be reached at christa at christammiller dot com.