“The police service is now engaging and being engaged in ways that are unprecedented in the history of UK policing.”
– College of Policing

Social media data monitoring began in the private sector, but has been eagerly adopted by police forces as a tool for fighting crime and enhancing community engagement. It’s reached the point where some of the most innovative work in this area is now happening in the public sector – for instance, some forces use monitoring software to identify and reach out to vulnerable people possibly at risk of abuse or self-harm.

Almost every UK police force now maintains a presence on at least one form of social media. Twitter, with its capacity to instantly spread short bursts of information far and wide, is unsurprisingly where 98% of forces are active, with an average of 18,000 followers, while 96% are on Facebook. There is also substantial activity from some forces on YouTube where there is scope for multiple channels focused on different aspects of police work.

Harvesting and using effectively the volumes of data from social media is one of the greatest challenges currently facing the financial services industry and likely will be for some time. Financial services businesses can draw several valuable lessons from police activity in this area:

1. Engagement has multiple benefits
Police forces are not just using social platforms for law enforcement purposes. They are using it to build trust and forge links with local communities that they may need to draw on in future, such as for intelligence-gathering. They are making people aware of new initiatives, and sending out advice on how the public can protect themselves and their property, both of which can reduce crime rates.

The other important point to take away from this is that a company will have a much more rounded view of the market if it is collecting information, opinion and news from a wide range of sources such as from Twitter, from news sites, and from industry blogs that can be used alongside more traditional data and reports.

2. Prediction wins prizes
Advanced predictive analytics are used to identify crime hotspots in terms of place and time. That means police can distribute their personnel to the maximum potential benefit. For example, data mapping showed that the average distance from home to where the defendants were accused of a riot offence was just over 2 miles. In an area of Sao Paulo, Police introduced a series of measures based on insight from a variety of sources including social media. This insight was then used to augment official statistics to include ‘non-reported’ crime. Using the data and analysis the police introduced CCTV and special bar licensing restrictions to those areas displaying the highest levels of crime, this led to an 81% reduction in reported crime for those areas according to a World Bank report.

It is clear to see many parallels when considering the world of commerce and Finance in situations that attempt to predict participants activities and behaviours. Augmenting traditional channels of ‘reported’ activity with those influential activists within Social Media could enhance the accuracy and speed of response when making predictions.

3. Information must be collected and released in an appropriate manner
The amount of personal information that can be collected through social media monitoring is vast and for an organisation that needs every investigative resource it can lay its hands on, very tempting. That’s why police forces have internal ethical debates shaped by the law, about what kind of data they should capture, how it should be stored, and in what circumstances should it be used.

4. Traditional methods of communication are becoming less relevant
Many police forces around the world are finding that the number of calls they receive to emergency numbers is falling, as for better or worse, people involved in or witnessing an incident are more likely to share that information over social media instead. Therefore police need to be active in monitoring networks for breaking news.

Since the SEC announced social media was a valid place for investor announcements, social media has only gained in being a credible source of information to the financial services industry. In a busy, fast-paced environment like financial services, a dashboard gives a central point for traders to monitor, and is more efficient than manually trawling through a number of social networks.

5. Sentiment will grow in importance as it is combined with other technology elements
Although the process is still in its early stages and nowhere near as precise as it will one day be, the police are tracking social sentiment. It’s a useful tool for prevention, for instance it might be useful in establishing when and where disorder might be focused, riots are likely to begin at a mass gathering or protest.

Already in use in many companies, social sentiment monitoring is likely to become invaluable to high-speed traders and investors trying to judge the potential trajectory of a stock or sector. It can also be useful in marketing where, perhaps, a credit card company involved in sponsorship of an event might be able to amplify or reduce its marketing efforts in response to conversations people are having online.

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