The Global Source for Social Media Researchers

SMRA Blog 

  • 18 Jul 2017 8:11 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Cloud computing

    Image: Kalawin/

    Great article about how researchers are using Twitter data for population research. 

    “Twitter data can provide a significant amount of individual social, behavioral and emotional information for researchers of many disciplines."

    Twitter data changing future of population research

    Kristie Auman-Bauer

    July 17, 2017

    UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Twitter may have started out as a way to connect to other people and share news quickly, but the social media platform is also a powerful tool, with the data generated representing the largest publicly accessible archive of human behavior in existence.

    Guangqing Chi, associate professor of rural sociology and demography and public health sciences in Penn State's Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education and director of the Computational and Spatial Analysis (CSA) Core in the Social Science Research Institute, and his team have collected over 30 terabytes of geo-tagged tweets over the last four years.

    “Our work has the potential to change the landscape of population research,” said Chi. “It could open the door for demographers to take advantage of rich geo-tagged Twitter data and strengthen research in many other disciplines that use demographic data.”

    Geo-tagged tweets are tagged with real-world geographic location information which are derived from location-based-service-enabled devices such as smartphones and tablets via GPS and Wi-Fi positioning. “Each geo-located tweet is essentially a digital trace of the Twitter user, including information such as location, time, and the content of the message,” Chi said. “Twitter data can provide a significant amount of individual social, behavioral and emotional information for researchers of many disciplines.”

    Junjun Yin, CSA research associate on the project, and Chi have built an infrastructure to collect, manage, and analyze the data. “We’re storing the data in a high-performance computing cluster with large amounts of storage capacity and memory,” Yin explained. “In addition, a distributed computing environment with integrated machine learning and data-mining packages and toolsets is up and running to provide efficient parallel data processing, which includes data extraction, calculation and analysis. We’ve also developed data processing programs so the data can be useful to researchers from many disciplines.”

    According to Chi, although this digital trace is not a complete trajectory tracking every movement of a user over space and time, nor is the whole data collection a representative sample of the whole population, the geo-located Twitter data can offer certain unique qualities for potential interdisciplinary research.

    “Geographically annotated social media is extremely valuable for modern information retrieval. The data offers large spatial coverage and multiple years of a large sample of the population, making it helpful in determining geographical uses of space, such as urban mobility and understanding functions of urban regions,” Chi explained. “The data can also be used to explore quality of life issues, such as health, education and income. Other uses include analysis of social ties and dissemination pattern of news and events, as well as enriching existing survey data.”

    In one project, Chi and his team are developing a set of methods to accurately predict demographics in real time. Knowing the demographics of a group is usually the first step in population research. Previously, Twitter data was limited to only a few demographics of Twitter users, and the Twitter user demographics and language use changed frequently, making prediction methods inaccurate.

    Chi and his team are also developing algorithm models to predict the composition of a group of twitter users. “Our goal is to find a way to predict Twitter user demographics, so that we will know each Twitter user represents how many people with similar characteristics. When we can do that, we can develop weights and make the data representative.”

    The approach is based on the premise that it is difficult to make predictions about an individual but is much easier to make predictions about large groups of individuals. The researchers compare their findings to U.S. Census data to determine how effective their models are.

    CSA plans to offer workshops starting this fall to promote the use of Big Data for social science research and packaging the Twitter data and capacity into a product for collaboration with Penn State researchers.

    The work is being supported by a National Science Foundation grant and the Social Science Research Institute and the Population Research Institute at Penn State.

    Additional researchers participating in this project include Daniel Kifer, associate professor of computer science; Jennifer Van Hook, professor of sociology and demography; Lee Giles, professor of information sciences and technology and director of the Intelligent Information Systems Research Laboratory, all at Penn State; as well as Xiaopeng Li, assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of South Florida; and Tse-Chuan Yang, associate professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Albany.

  • 10 Jul 2017 4:47 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Every marketer tries to zero in on what triggers their customers to make a a purchase in the moment of experience. When a customer is ready to purchase a new refrigerator for example and shops the big box stores or their local appliance store, sales representatives are trained to pick up on the "buying signals" that a customer gives. This may include body language, what they say when they compare refrigerators, which one they linger at longer, etc.. A well trained rep will pick up on them and guide the customer to make the right purchase decision right then and there. 

    For the business that sells their product or service online, it's another story altogether. What are the buying signals? Reviews play an increasingly important role more and more as many consumers trust them in lieu of traditional advertising. However, this is not the only thing that drives an online purchase. 

    Whether your business is online or off, you can benefit from setting up a Social Media Research study to help you identify the language of your buyers.  What are my customers discussing online in my industry?  How are they using my products? How can I personalize our marketing to zero in on these consumers and drive sales? This is where Social Media Research can play an important role in understanding the language of the buyer, by identifying conversation clusters around your industry.  How can you do this?

    • Start by casting a wide net within your social media listening platform using keywords that will provide you with a net full of data insights. 
    • Harvest the data for major trends and topics around your industry.
    • Which keywords are consumers using the most within your industry? 
    • Next use this information to start a new scan using the keywords you found to be used the most.
    • This drill down method will uncover influencers and enough volume around them to be able to get to the heart of the matter and start to uncover the language of your buyer. 
    A major beverage company began a "research" study around what people where discussing online about a type of beverage. Up to this point they thought they had a good handle on their customer demographic persona. The completion of the study revealed a much more up close and personal view of their customers which led them to create a new beverage that hit the sweet spot of what their customers were using the beverage to make. After additional R&D the company launched a new product.  Marketing campaign designed and executed around these findings created positive buzz and their new product has been doing very well. 

    Great example of Social Media Research & Market Research ROI.

  • 5 Jul 2017 9:26 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    BY: Jim Matorin, Board Member of the SMRA and Business Catalyst at SMARTKETING: Tech-friendly pragmatist that specializes in innovation and revitalizing businesses.

    Time To Connect The Dots

    It is difficult to describe the range of emotions I experienced back in May when Kathy Doering asked me to join the SMRA Advisory Board.  At first, I was excited, flattered, and then realized the digital footprint I created back in 2008 and stayed committed to was finally paying off dividends.  For the record, I originally met Kathy via online engagement.  Again, let me reiterate my excitement to be involved on the ground floor of a new association that will take social media to the next level – working with individuals who truly understand the value of social media, an array of tools that will enhance social media analytics, social listening and brand reputation management throughout organizations worldwide.

    I experienced a different emotion last week, a meltdown, when I read an Advertising Age article titled Marketing for a New Age: Being Digital vs. Doing Digital  The article highlighted the key findings from a study conducted by Facebook and Deloitte (383 marketing professionals across a wide range of industries, company sizes and geography).  Conclusion: Most organizations are executing select digital to make incremental improvements to their current situation (a.k.a. status quo).  Specifically, 41% of the respondents believe their corporate culture and silos are the inhibiting factors to “being digital.”  Consequently, it is time for organizations to connect the dots!

    The article went on to detail the Digital DNA traits the study revealed organizations need to incorporate into their business, operating, talent and customer models to evolve into a mature digital organization (a.k.a. social enterprise, a topic I plan to address at a later date).  Rather than list all the traits, I will cut to the chase.  The starting point is to provide your organization with the right resources (internal and external), plus training to cultivate a digital culture. 

    Last week I also participated on the first SMRA Advisory Board conference call.  A diverse group!  My takeaway: I firmly believe the SMRA will be a significant resource for future digital organizations.  We are committed to educational forums for our membership.  In addition, we are going to be actively involved in the exciting CX Talks: The Customer Experience Summit that will conducted in Atlanta October 2  

    Are you ready to connect the dots!

  • 1 Jul 2017 4:34 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Posted on September 21, 2016 by eChatter





    There’s been so much focus on individual social media profiles and the importance of making sure your social identity presents your “best self” when searching for a new job, yet there’s been very little talk of a company making sure their social identity is secure before advertising that they’re hiring.

    Social hiring is taking off, and it’s important for companies to be just as aware as job seekers when it comes to social media reputation.

    What is social hiring?

    Essentially, this is recruiting and identifying potential job candidates through social media sites, namely LinkedIn and the like. It now extends beyond LinkedIn to Facebook and even Twitter. At first glance, you would think this is pretty simplistic – companies posting job openings on these sites, or reaching out to those on LinkedIn, for example, who indicate they are seeking new employment and might be a good fit for your company.

    But it’s much more than that.

    Just like a job candidate, it’s important for companies to have a positive social media reputation in order to attract new hires. One aspect that is overlooked is creating a sense that the company is a great place to work. While overlooked, it is becoming increasingly important.
    Research shows that 65% of survey respondents would consider a job opportunity if it came from a personal connection, and more and more people expect to better understand a company’s culture before applying for a job. If done correctly, companies can easily recruit new hires that will be a good fit.

    So, what does a company need to keep in mind when creating its social media presence, especially with regard to hiring?

    Keep tabs on social media reputation. This is just as important for recruiting new hires as it is for monitoring customer satisfaction. A continued social media monitoring program will give your company insight into what prospective employees may see if they are doing research – a quick Google search may show positive (or negative) customers reviews, or they may be directed to an employee driven review site such as Glassdoor.

    Take a close look at your social media sites. If you were a stranger reading through Tweets or the company’s Facebook timeline, does it seem like a company you would want to work for? How is the consumer engagement – vibrant and active, or sparse (or worse, nonexistent)?

    Let others see what happens behind the scenes. Creating a “talent brand” for your company will give potential employees a chance to get a sneak peek into what it’s like to be an employee. It will have the added benefit of letting your customers see “behind the curtain” as well. What does this mean? Simply put, allow your employees to create content to post to their social sites that highlights their employment – let them show off what they do best, what they like about their work, and what they like about the company in general. Professionally, encourage them to join LinkedIn groups and showcase their talent through participation. Encourage them to engage with the company’s social sites to create a sense of cohesion and enjoyment in the workplace. Any content deigned to showcase the company culture will help boost customer satisfaction and allow potential employees to want to work there.

    Just like companies engaging in social media monitoring to find out more about potential job candidates, individuals are doing the same research on companies. Make it easier for people to decide they are a good fit for your company by providing a strong social media presence that is culture focused – it can make the job search easier when it’s time to recruit. The right social media presence can make it easier on both ends, thus potentially making the hiring process more efficient on both ends of the search.

  • 26 Jun 2017 12:49 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    SmartBrief posted an excellent article from Chris Tesco that we wanted to share. The link between social media and loyalty is genius! 

    Chris Teso is founder and CEO of engagement and loyalty solutions provider Chirpify, where he invented "in-stream transactions," enabling brands to create a currency exchange between social media and loyalty programs to drive member acquisition, engagement, and spend.    

    June 22, 2017


    There’s an old saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Yet, many organizations are working with customer views that have entire data links missing. If you are building your marketing efforts on weak -- or missing -- data, odds are your efforts won’t deliver the results you want.

    This missing link for many companies is a view into their customers within social media. While many companies have tools for listening and understanding their social media audiences at a macro level, there is a clear opportunity to link the social ID to the CRM and make social media the hub for your 360-degree customer view.

    Why social media should lead

    Social media is increasingly at the center of our daily lives; according to research by Mediakix, the average person spends nearly two hours every day on social media. In fact, time spent on social media trumps eating, socializing and other common daily activities. If social media customer activity is the missing link in your customer view, then it is a large blind spot.

    However, when social IDs are linked to customer records, once anonymous people can be linked to their offline profile housed in the CRM, making them identifiable across marketing channels. Moreover, with automation, you can acquire consumer data at scale, which allows you to connect on- and off-line profiles for many customers at once. With this data in hand, social media marketers are able to create campaigns and programs built on deeper knowledge -- such as spending behavior -- and effectively link business outcomes to marketing efforts.

    Social media allows personalization

    The promise of 1:1 marketing is the ability to identify (not just recognize) customers across channels and personalize content, offers, rewards and more based on their history and experience with the brand. Linking social IDs to the CRM allows us as marketers to immediately identify our customers in social. When coupled with automation, we can write rules to interact with these customers at scale, responding automatically with tailored responses that create a value exchange. In this way, we enable customers to engage more deeply, participate more often and convert seamlessly within the social media context. This virtual snowball effect creates positive earned media for the brand and implied social proof that serves to encourage new customer acquisition and deeper loyalty among existing customers.

    In addition, social media automation has matured to the point where we marketers can respond at scale to customers, allowing us to drive more engagement. Social media marketers can now automatically send content back to people who set off certain social media actions such as posting about a certain person, hashtag, photo or topic. While the content can be anything -- behind-the-scenes video, points, promo codes, contest entries, concert tickets, and more -- the link to the CRM allows us to track when they interact, download or otherwise turn that event into a conversion activity. We can also aggregate this data for further analysis and fine-tuning of marketing efforts.

    Proving social media ROI

    With this critical linkage in place, your social media program should be able to identify any campaign conversion data by social ID and tie it to an existing customer record in your CRM. Once this data is linked, you can slice and dice it in a myriad of ways to measure campaign success and create measurable improvement. For example, a leading retailer linked its customers’ social IDs to its CRM records which it in turn tied to its eCommerce system to determine that social media customers who were also members of its loyalty program spent 25% more.

    In addition, as the customer journey usually begins online, a measurable way marketers can impact in-store visits is by rewarding customers active in social media with incentives redeemable in the store. Social media tools can also encourage in-store spending by listening for social check-ins and automatically replying to them with an in-store offer. Track which of your offers drive the greatest number of responses and redemptions and how these efforts directly impact the topline for meaningful ROI.

    As the C-suite tasks social media marketers with articulating business-impacting ROI, it’s clear that connecting the dots between customer social IDs and the CRM is a critical step in growing what we can measure -- not to mention the power all that extra data gives us to improve our marketing efforts. As more and more consumer activity moves to the social media context, it’s clear that social media IDs should be linked to the CRM for a truly complete customer view. Couple this added customer insight with automation and suddenly marketers have the power to deliver on recognition, personalization and a true value exchange that drives meaningful business impact.

    Chris Teso is founder and CEO of engagement and loyalty solutions provider Chirpify, where he invented "in-stream transactions," enabling brands to create a currency exchange between social media and loyalty programs to drive member acquisition, engagement, and spend. Twitter:@christeso; LinkedIn: Chris Teso

  • 25 Jun 2017 6:44 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Kathy Doering

    Social Media Research has many moving parts and can help you in ways you may not have considered. Take a look at our top 10:

    1. Brand Reputation: Monitoring your brand will answer your most important social media marketing questions. In fact, many times it should be the starting place. Are you being represented properly online? Which platform is giving you the best results regarding engagement? What are the statistics telling you? Which demographic is more engaged with your product or service?

    2. Competitive Intelligence: It is difficult to stay on top of everything that is being said, published and written online about your competitors. Monitoring your competitors will give you insights to stay one step ahead. Valuable insights, such as learning the pain points of your competitor’s customers and information about product and service launches, are easily obtained. Use the intelligence to get in front of your competitor’s customers, especially those that are unhappy and looking for a new company to do business with.

    3. Attracting New Customers: Use social media research to learn about your customers on a deeper level. Go beyond demographics specific to your business; information about their lifestyle, interests, and even family status gives you the opportunity to dig deep into “who” your customers are. Gain new customers who never heard of your brand in creative and engaging ways.

    4. Improve Customer Service: Social media has become a go to for many consumers who have a question, suggestion or complaint. Monitoring this allows for a quick response and the opportunity to reach customers online who are talking about you, but not talking to you. This added touchpoint can go a long way in enhancing the customer experience.

    5. Influencers: You may have fans out there you never knew you had! They are influencing your brand by using your product or service and discussing it with their fans and followers. Consumers listen to influencers. Social media research helps you identify your influencers, reach out to them, and build a relationship that will benefit your marketing efforts.

    6. Crisis Management: One bad post can easily become viral and harm your brand instantly. Social media research and listening will help you identify a brewing crisis before it goes viral.

    7. Sales and Lead Generation: Keyword monitoring allows you the opportunity to get noticed online in a variety of ways. Establish yourself as a thought leader within your industry.

    8. Hiring and Recruiting: Over 60% of today’s HR executives look at a candidate’s social media and online profile before making a hiring decision. What is within your legal rights to conduct this research? Are you being FCRA compliant? Reaching a candidate, the legal way, will protect your company and ensure you make the best hiring decisions possible.

    9. Legal and Law Enforcement: Most corporate attorneys are now advising their business clients to not only monitor their brand and/or employees online but also suggest they archive the data in case of future law suits.

    10. Better Understand Your Audience: By using social media listening strategies you can learn a lot about your audience, some of which may surprise you. This allows for better segmented target marketing which leads to stronger social media marketing ROI.

  • 24 Jun 2017 9:20 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    What can social media data tell me? 

    People love to talk about their favorite televisions shows in social media~ sometimes even when the show is airing. Nielsen took a look at this research in a very insightful way.

    About the researchThe report was based on Facebook and Twitter data collected by Nielsen between September 18, 2016 and May 24, 2017.

    by Ayaz Nanji  |  June 23, 2017

    The Walking Dead was the most talked about television show on social media during the 2016-2017 season, according to recent research from Nielsen.

    The report was based on Facebook and Twitter data collected by Nielsen between September 18, 2016 and May 24, 2017 (the traditional television season).

    The episodes of The Walking Dead generated 2 million social interactions, on average, on Facebook and Twitter.

    Empire ranked second, with 860,000 interactions generated per episode, on average.

    The Bachelor ranked third, followed by This Is Us and Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta.

    The Grammys had the most interactions (27.6 million) on Facebook and Twitter of any television special last season.

    Although the Oscars ranked second, the special generated 836,000 interactions within five minutes after the wrong film was announced as Best Picture.

    Super Bowl LI had the most interactions (190.7 million) on Facebook and Twitter of any sports event last season. Some 7.5 million interactions occurred as the game went into overtime.

  • 21 Jun 2017 7:48 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    This researcher used social media to help those in need!

    June 20, 2017 by Michael Platt

    Research uses social media to learn what people really need in time of crisis

    Painstaking analysis of nearly 70,000 tweets sent out by evacuees escaping the Fort McMurray wildfire shows key concerns in a crisis aren't being answered by current smartphone emergency apps, leaving citizens in the dark at a time of mass panic.

    After studying queries and concerns repeatedly expressed over Twitter during last May's evacuation of 88,000 people from the fire-threatened city, software engineers at the University of Calgary determined the most pressing needs and questions failed to match up with features being provided via smartphone software, a serious concern when the Internet is a primary source of information.

    "Our results show that the apps presently available to people in need are lacking relevant and useful features," explains Maleknaz Nayebi, lead researcher and PhD candidate at Schulich School of Engineering.

    "We found that up to 80 per cent of the features people are looking for aren't accommodated right now. There are 26 apps for wildfires in North America and Australia, for example, but they don't have the features people really want."

    Learning what people really need in a crisis

    The study, published online through the 2017 IEEE/ACM 39th International Conference on Software Engineering, aims to arm future software developers with a better sense of what people really need in a crisis, whether natural disaster like a fire or flood, or man-made, like an act of terror.

    Ensuring victims can get the right information via their smartphones, at times when first responders are overwhelmed and people are panicked and desperate is increasingly vital—and as this research noted, "Social media became the crisis' unofficial emergency broadcast system."

    To determine what people really wanted during the Fort McMurray wildfire, the team designed a program called MAPFEAT to comb through 69,680 unique tweets from May 2 to May 7, 2016, and then match the most commonly repeated queries with existing mobile application software.

    MAPFEAT—the acronym stands for Mining APp FEAtures from Tweets—told researchers that information and service most in demand at the height of the Fort McMurray fire wasn't available, even via apps specifically designed to provide information during wildfires and other disasters.

    Top 10 most helpful features

    The top 10 features that would have helped evacuees the most, based on MAPFEAT's crowdsource analysis and followup studies with the general public, included:

    Fire alarm notification

    Food and water requests and resource

    Emergency maintenance service

    Send emergency text messages

    Safety guidelines

    Fire and safeness warning

    Request ambulance at a tap

    Find nearest gas station

    Emergency zones maps

    Find a medical centre

    Whether it was questions about the availability of petrol, proximity of danger or inquiries about potential food and shelter, Nayebi and her team found only six of the top 40 concerns were addressed by existing apps, and not a single item in the top 10 was covered.

    "By using MAPFEAT, we proactively understand victims' needs and suggest mobile software support to the people impacted," says Nayebi.

    Looking for applications beyond emergencies

    Rather than just a critique of software shortcomings, the researchers hope their analysis will be a silver lining to the gargantuan cloud of fire and smoke that sent thousands of residents fleeing for their lives, and the same crowdsource technique may be applicable for software design beyond emergencies.

    "We are at the first stage of extracting those needs, and the next step is for organizations to adopt this information," explains Nayebi.

    Given a chance to employ MAPFEAT and understand what people really want to know in a mass emergency, it's hoped public information apps can be updated to reflect the reality of a panicked population, and provide useful information in a crisis or disaster.

    "That is a fundamental problem in all software development, to try and understand the user needs is always difficult," says Guenther Ruhe, Nayebyi's supervisor and a member of the research team, along with Mahshid Marbouti, Rachel Quapp and Frank Maurer from UCalgary's Faculty of Science.

    "That's why this is such a smart idea, because from social media you get basically all the information you need to solve this problem."

  • 20 Jun 2017 3:14 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Great follow up on Social Media Research for employment screening.

    HR & Social Media: Protected Class Guide

    Posted on June 15, 2017 by eChatter

    You can’t unring the bell … why put yourself (or your company) in a potentially sticky situation when it comes to hiring and the use of social media as part of the hiring process?

    HR departments are using social media as a tool for potential employee research, though this has been one industry that is slow to warm up to the idea. In some cases, it may simply be that the company doesn’t have enough manpower or time to devote to another task; for others, they may see it as a still very grey, muddy area they don’t want to get involved in.

    Part of the fear is knowing what’s okay and not okay to see, and how to make sure your hiring managers are only seeing the “right” content. There are many ways to work around this, including using a third party vendor or making sure that the person doing the social media research is not the hiring manager; by doing this, you can make sure that your company is in compliance with the FCRA.

    Did you know there are federal and state specific protected classes? If your company spans the country, are you aware of the different classes?

    Here are some interesting examples:

    • Whether a candidate obtained a GED vs graduating from high school is a protected class in PA
    • Place of birth is a protected class specific to VT
    • Height & weight is protected in MI
    • The following states only follow federal statutes and do not have any state specific protected classes: AL, ID, MS, SC

    These are just some of the protected classes; while these may seem like areas that would not come to light when viewing a person’s social media sites, it’s possible. And what about the more commonly shared pieces of information, such as marital status, whether or not someone is a parent, or mental illness history? You never know to what extent people share their lives online anymore; it’s best to err on the side of caution.

    If you are handling social media background checks internally, we’d like to share a list of protected classes at the federal and state levels.


    • Age (over 40)
    • Color
    • Disability
    • Genetic Information
    • Military Status
    • National Origin
    • Race
    • Religion
    • Sex (includes pregnancy)
    • Veteran Status


    Protected classes vary by state. Click here to see the state by state list of protected classes


  • 19 Jun 2017 9:21 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    By: Kathy Doering

    The survey results of Career Builder's Social Media Study show a significant increase in the amount of employers who use social media to screen applicants. The Study indicates that over half of employers who use social media screening did not hire the candidate based on their social media content findings on the applicant.

    Highlights of the study include:

    - 57 percent are less likely to interview a candidate they can't find online

    - 54 percent have decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media profiles

    - Half of employers check current employees' social media profiles, over a third have reprimanded or fired an employee for inappropriate content

    - 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates, up from 11 percent in 2006

      What does the FCRA say about the candidate's rights? 

      The Fair Credit Reporting Act & social media: What businesses should know

      By: Lesley Fair | Jun 23, 2011 10:23AM

      You have some job openings at your company or maybe you’re thinking of promoting people to new positions. You’ve winnowed that stack of resumes down to some promising candidates. Now it’s nitty gritty time: background checks.

      Employment background checks can include information from a variety of sources: credit reports, employment and salary history, criminal records — and these days, even social media. But regardless of the type of information in a report you use when making hiring decisions, the rules are the same. Companies providing reports to employers and employers using reports must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

      The FTC staff recently looked at a company selling background reports that include information from social media to see if they were complying with FCRA. Staff’s letter to the company emphasized that when reports include information derived from social media, the same rules apply. For example, companies selling background reports must take reasonable steps to ensure the maximum possible accuracy of what’s reported from social networks and that it relates to the correct person. They have to comply with other FCRA sections, too — like providing copies of reports to people and having a process in place if people dispute what’s said about them in a report. In addition, companies must give employers who use their reports information about employers’ responsibilities under FCRA — like their obligation to provide employees or applicants with advance notice of any adverse action taken on the basis of the reports.

      Another key requirement: Companies selling background reports for employment must require that employers certify the report won’t be used in a way that would violate federal or state equal employment opportunity laws or regulations.

      Of course, given the sensitive nature of the information in reports, everyone — companies selling the reports and employers using them — has a legal obligation to keep them secure and dispose of them properly.

      Read Employment Background Checks and Credit Reports to find out more about what the law says about using credit reports in the workplace.

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