2022 was an exciting year in social media. There was a rise of new social media apps and an aggressive evolution of existing sites, providing our analyst team with new sources and our reports with interesting insights into user behaviours. Here’s a brief roundup of some of the significant changes to social media in the past year, and how we think these sites are going to be useful for our investigations in 2023.
Facebook and Instagram
Two powerhouses of social media remain popular. Our analysts have seen that the usage of community and hobby-based groups on Facebook remains high, with Facebook stating that most users are members of “at least 15 groups”. Facebook also announced the Metaverse at the end of 2021, and throughout 2022 has been slowly adding to and building their virtual social media world. Our analysts have started to see users post regarding their activity on the virtual space and will likely see more of this continuing into 2023. With the success of TikTok in recent years, both Facebook and Instagram have been growing their short-form video content. Analysts have also seen a rise in users utilising the ‘Stories’ feature on both platforms, making our Temporary Intelligence Capture™ solution more valuable in capturing and reporting on ‘TEMPINT’. Which is proven to deliver a greater level of content and insight on an investigation subject.
TikTok had also grown steadily in 2022, introducing new features such as still images and ‘TikTok Now’ in the latter half of the year. TikTok Now, a feature that involves users uploading an image every day when prompted, is an attempt to rival the newcomer social media platform BeReal, discussed below. The platform has shown that it’s not afraid to make swift additions to its interface to address changing trends. Analysts are finding that more and more individuals utilise TikTok and are likely to have profiles on the site.
Social media platforms created for specific niches, such as professional and activity-based interactions, have also evolved. LinkedIn recently allowed users to see when profiles were created and last updated, providing further data points for investigators, which has already proved useful in Netwatch investigations.
The activity app Strava has also been expanding over the last few years, adding six new activities including tennis and Pilates to their lists in January 2023, meaning more athletes are able to show their activities on the site. In 2022, the website also launched ‘Strava Community Hubs’, a message board for users to discuss their sports and hobbies, in order to compete with the popularity of online local community groups.
After a few years of stagnancy, with experiments such as “fleets” (temporary tweets) and Twitter spaces at the end of 2022 the app made headlines after Elon Musk purchased the platform. Some users noted that it was “the fall of twitter” whilst Mr Musk described the app as very much ‘alive’. We’ll be keeping an eye on the platform as it changes form and the potential smaller platforms that are vying for users, such as Mastodon. However, at the present time Twitter is very much still online and proving to be as big an intelligence source as it ever has.
The newcomers in social media
As Instagram and TikTok are flocking to stay on the trend, the explosive BeReal app attracted a boom of users during the end of 2022 and is expected to push the authenticity of social media for younger generations. Read our explanation of the app and an analysis of how useful it will be for OSINT here.
NextDoor has been around for a while but has been increasingly more useful for our analysts as it grows in usership. It is a local community app, which focuses on connecting neighbours and has provided valuable intelligence for our Incident Investigations already.
Alongside all of the bigger social media platforms our team search across a plethora of other platforms such as VCSO, Reddit, Map My Run and much more, to ensure our investigations provide a complete picture.
Working with NetWatch
I reached out to our Chief Operating Officer David Purcell to ask for his views on what these changes meant for our business and clients:
“The online world is growing (when was it not?!) and becoming an even richer source of intelligence and information. Whilst this compounds the difficulty and complexity of conducting a thorough piece of research, it means that OSINT investigation is more important and relevant in 2023 than it ever has been. In working with NetWatch you can ensure you’re choosing a partner that takes their responsibility seriously and thrives on the challenge of delivering critical, relevant and actionable intelligence.” – David Purcell
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