Do you know the game the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or "Bacon's Law"? It’s based on the "six degrees of separation" concept, which asserts that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. The Kevin Bacon reference turns it into a fun game where you use movies to try to find the shortest path between a random actor and Kevin Bacon. It’s quite amusing.
So why am I bringing this up? It’s a good analogy to explain associations. We get many questions at Social Sentinel about how we make associations between what we scan and your account, and why posts are associated with you and not someone else. By definition, associations are how an author of a social media post that contains a particular term/s is connected to a client; but when you put this in the context of scanning around 1 billion data points per day, it requires a little more explanation. We can dig into it technically ad nauseam because it’s what we do and love, or we can play six degrees of Kevin Bacon.
In this exercise, imagine your school is The Kevin Bacon University (probably not Animal House, but whatever speaks to you; go nuts, it’s your scenario.) And since Twitter is one of the most voluminous forms of communications on social media, we will use that platform in our example. (Twitter produces approximately 500 million posts per day or about 6k posts per second.) Let’s use, say, @baconuniversity as the handle in our game.
First, there are the basics of association that apply to every social media platform we scan. They include geography, demographic information, school details like address, mascot, building names, etc. But these alone aren’t enough to make an association. We need to connect the dots between your account information and the tons of social media posts we scan every day to make the most relevant associations possible. Remember: we aren’t trying to serve up what’s being said about your school in general; we are finding that needle in the digital haystack that could be a potential threat or cry for help associated with your school.
Now imagine a random person named “Jimmy”. Jimmy heads off to KBU, ready to study music and acting. To be sure he doesn’t miss a thing happening on campus, he follows @baconuniversity, the school’s public Twitter handle, and goes all in on retweets, likes, and tagging everything about KBU. But none of Jimmy’s posts are ever delivered to you as an Alert or Discussion. Why? Because there is no language included that would escalate the post via the Social Sentinel model. In other words, there’s no threat or cry for help in anything he’s posting.