Hiding in Plain Sight: How to find a Jekyll’s Hyde in Social Media Profiles
By Joelle Scott, Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Resolutions Inc.
Social media is used to connect with friends, family, business associates or, more generally, to follow the world. But it is more than just the connective tissue of our digital society. Investors and their diligence providers should employ it as a character assessment tool when sizing up a new deal. In the increasingly expansive digital and mobile world there are more places to hide bad behavior.
According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans actively use social media, with Facebook and YouTube leading in popularity. Most of these people want to be seen, heard, viewed, shared and liked. This is great news for prudent investors and the investigators they hire to check out management teams.
A thorough examination of someone’s Internet presence will cover everything from corporate biographies and mainstream social media platforms to obscure blogs and online communities. Our team of experts have uncovered hundreds of instances where the information presented is either false (credentials, career history), controversial (political rants, unethical views) or illegal (pedophilia, controlled substances). Sometimes these offenses are in plain view on Facebook or Instagram. Other times they require creative search strategies like the ones presented below which anyone can use:
Known Handles and Email Addresses
Keeping anonymity on the Internet is tricky. Quite often people try to hide their questionable comments or posts using a veiled identity without realizing they are using the same or very similar handles and email addresses to those they have used on other social media platforms. This is all searchable. The same handle used to post the family photo might also be used to spread hate.
The accounts cannot necessarily be found through a basic Google search. The most accurate way to find these concealed profiles is to access each social media site independently and then run every handle, username or email. Some of these platforms are mobile only so you may be downloading a TikTok app to see if your executive has any videos of interest
Following the same user patterns as mentioned above, people frequently use the same or similar photos, graphics, and avatars across various accounts. They may be smart enough to not list their actual name or primary handle, but the unique graphic can help you track them down.
Copy and paste a picture, avatar or graphic into a “Google Images” search. The results will show you any place that image has been used.
Search by Friends and Family
If you cannot find a person’s social media profile, try their known family or friends and then scour their connections to find your person.
Search by likes
Explore a person’s likes and comments. This may show a pattern of earnest behavior or a proclivity towards conduct that might not mirror your firm’s ethics. When a person does not use his or her legal name online, they are often commenting or “liking” comments and photos made by their online community. Try searching accounts that the person is likely to interact with (e.g. colleges).
Be wary of the websites that advertise social media monitoring or discovering all social media profiles – these sites are inaccurate or incomplete. To find what you need to know, you must drill down. There is no shortcut.
Of course, the usefulness of these tips depends on the privacy settings on any given account. If you don’t want people accessing your activity, make sure you and your family are fully set to private. And never, ever list a full date of birth anywhere on social media.
The use of social media will continue to evolve and expand. Use it to your advantage to be sure your next management team is not @CRAZY2019.