Social Media Threat Alerts vs. Social Media Monitoring

July 16, 2018

A threat can come from anyone, anywhere, anytime. And staying on top of potential threats is increasingly more complicated in our digital world. As more signals of harm become communicated through social media, we have an opportunity to become aware and intervene to avert a tragic situation. But creating awareness of social media activity can mean different things to different people. To some, it can conjure up misconceptions about what a social media threat alert service (SMTAS) does as opposed to something designed specifically for monitoring. In this article, we break down what the differences are between these services, so you have the right information to make informed decisions that best support your efforts to keep your community safe.

Common choice

Schools want a solution that provides insight into threatening language directed at individuals or entire student populations. But sifting through every student’s public social presence post by post, channel by channel, is unrealistic and ineffective and highly unethical. School safety teams turn to either a monitoring solution or a threat alert service as part of their overall safety strategy. Understanding the difference is crucial and useful when communicating your strategy to your constituents.

  • Social media monitoring tools are typically used to crawl public posts (not only social media) and listen for online chatter about a specific item of interest.
  • A social media threat alert service also scans public posts but focuses on assessing and alerting of potential threats against schools districts, students, faculty, staff, property, or individual students to those tasked with protecting their well-being and safety.

Though enticing, monitoring tools lack the refinement and safety-minded purpose of a social media threat alert service.

How monitoring and threat alert services differ

It’s easy to see how one could be confused for the other. It sounds like they do the same thing. In actuality – apart from a shared inability to search posts in private or closed networks – they’re quite different.

For corporations, monitoring tools could help find active discussions about their brand. For those in the public eye, they contribute to a PR strategy. Monitoring tools typically empower users to post and reply to comments, as well as automate the posting of prepared content.

Additional monitoring tools allow companies to keep tabs on employee activity (emails sent, phone conversations, etc.) as those communications are considered company property. The allure of such service is easy to understand – especially for budget-strapped school districts who feel powerless against the ocean of social media posts their community produce daily.

Advantage: SMTAS

Though enticing, monitoring tools lack the refinement and safety-minded purpose of a social media threat alert service. Rather than blindly retrieving activity for a hashtag or keyword, SMTAS rely on powerful algorithms and data science.

A SMTAS, like Social Sentinel, associates potential threatening posts with a school or company, along with language context and details its author shares on his/her public-facing profile. It’s done without violating an author’s right to free expression since the content is out in public view.

A SMTAS is one of the last digital connections between signs of potential acts of violence and the opportunity to keep a community safe. Those identified as alert recipients serve as a review point for generated alerts; deciding to take action or not.

To the uninformed, it’s easy to see how these two approaches could be mistaken for one another – and frequently interchanged in conversations about school safety strategy components. But the intent and extent differ when you look closer at your options.

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