Most of the time, private investigators succeed by conducting old-fashioned PI work such as knocking on doors, canvassing locations, conducting surveillance at a fixed location and interviewing witnesses; however, extensive fieldwork can be costly to the client and, without proper pre-field research, unproductive. During the early stages of the computer age, private investigators had no choice but to immediately hit the streets to pursue their investigations. Most of the work was tedious and, to some extent, unsuccessful due to the limited information the PI had on a subject prior to conducting the investigation.
Next came the use of database searches and the burgeoning data mining industry. While there were some very questionable databases that advertised to private investigators and the general public, the database industry revolutionized the entire field of investigation work for both law enforcement and private investigators. However, having a detailed database may no longer be enough to pursue a successful and productive investigation. If a private investigator has a limited understanding of social media, they will find themselves behind the eight ball. Many private investigators are hiring 20-something, tech-savvy assistants to get a better idea of how to delve into many of the social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. In fact, many clients inquire as to whether the PI firm has a separate social media department. Social media has been around for well over a decade, and many would think that a PI would have a working knowledge of it; however, a working or limited knowledge of the use of social media is not adequate for a private investigator. The use of social media is now an integral part of an investigation and can, in fact, be the “smoking gun” needed to solve the case.
How critical is it for a private investigator to be educated on the use of social media? According to an article in the Washington Post called “How Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have changed Private Investigation,” a private investigator was asked to conduct research on prospective jurors in a case against a well-known university. His assignment was to establish if any potential jurors had strong ties to the schools, especially if they were donors connected to a sports team. The investigator was able to complete the assignment by conducting detailed research on social media and learned that one potential juror was, in fact, a major contributor to the university’s football team, which was a critical piece of information to the client involved in the case.
Besides being successful and dedicated at mining social media for solving cases, a modern and well run private investigation firm needs to have their own well laid out, easy to read and detailed website, which would include access to their own Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels. Not only is social media here to stay, the role it plays in our lives will continue to expand and evolve. A private investigation firm needs to be up to date on all of the latest social media changes and trends, both from a client prospective and as an investigation tool. Integrated Security Services has a dedicated department solely for the purpose of conducting social media investigations. Our social media team has many years of experience and is always embracing new social media channels as they gain traction. Whether you utilize the services of Integrated Security Services or another private investigation company, make sure that social media is an integral part of their investigative process.