Social Media Background Checks: Enhancing Due Diligence

By Tali Bartkunsky
July 12, 2022

The purpose of a social media background check

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, Reddit, and other platforms have seamlessly integrated their way into our daily lives. Today, with more than half the world using social media, it’s clear why it is becoming an increasingly relevant part of a background check.

However, since social media users voluntarily provide information about their personally held beliefs, religious affiliation, race, gender, age, ethnicity, etc., it can be argued that this could lead to a misuse of information. Whether conscious of it or not, investors may base their decisions on the information they come across on one’s social media platforms. As a result, the question of whether or not to include a social media background check is debated amongst due diligence professionals.

Ultimately, the goal of social media screening is to flag risk-related activity. Much like research is conducted on an individual’s professional history, financial background, or legal records, a social media analysis is yet another layer of risk management, adding more depth to a background check report. By highlighting potential liabilities that investors should be aware of, it provides a more comprehensive scope of the risks involved.

A social media analysis is yet another layer of risk management, adding more depth to a background check report.

 

Privacy concerns

It’s important to note that not every profile can be included in a social media background check. Given that users define their privacy settings according to how much they would like to share with others, an analysis could only be conducted on publicly accessible profiles.

Furthermore, a social media background check is intended to highlight only adverse activity. Even though a subject’s profile may be public, the analysis should only flag risk-related content that is relevant to an investor. For example, posts about political connections, hate speech, or violence would be a cause for concern for allocators or fund managers looking into potential business partners or executive management teams.

Given that social media plays an integral role in today’s professional interactions and relationships, this expansive investigation provides investors with the transparency they need to come to sound decisions.

 

The value of social media for pre-investment due diligence

In today’s digital age, social media has the power to shape people’s perceptions and beliefs. An adverse online post can instantly reach billions of people across the globe, and can significantly impact long-lasting reputational damage. This influence consequently affects the financial industry, specifically investment professionals conducting pre-investment due diligence. An in-depth social media screening can highlight potential risks associated with the subject of the background check, allowing investors to have greater transparency regarding their decisions.

What’s more, is that a social media analysis can identify unfavorable information that might not have been highlighted in any other part of a background check. For example, if an individual has no legal history, professional discrepancies, or poor financial track record, but actively posts, likes, or shares adverse content, that could raise significant questions that would otherwise have been unidentified.

Given that traditional background checks don’t take an individual or company’s social media presence into account, including a social media analysis in a background check is particularly valuable for decision-makers when conducting pre-investment due diligence.

 

Classifying adverse content on social media background checks

A social media background check is intended to highlight only adverse activity.

When analyzing the results of a social media check, there are many classifications of adverse content. Here are a few examples of the different categories:

 

  • Professional discourtesy—If the subject has openly expressed negative comments against a previous employer or a company they made business with.
  • Illegal behavior—For example, posts about illicit controlled substances or driving under the influence may indicate unwarranted behavior risks.
  • Discriminatory remarks—Content that pertains to racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination.
  • Inappropriate conduct—Sexual impropriety, violence, and explicit content are examples of inappropriate conduct that could raise questions about the subject’s judgment in publicly sharing this type of content.

Best practices for social media background checks

When including a social media background check in the pre-investment due diligence process, keep these best practices in mind:
  • Employ a reputable background check provider—While it may seem tempting to cut costs and perform an internal social media check, employing a professional background check provider is in one’s best interest. They have the tools and expertise to conduct a rapid and wide-ranging investigation which provides a level of transparency that cannot be achieved by an analyst manually scrolling through the same profiles. Furthermore, not only do they present an impartial review of adverse content, but their seasoned team of analysts can answer any questions or concerns and provide useful advice and guidance.
  • Review all social media platforms—Since there is an abundance of social networking sites, it may appear to be too cumbersome to include a review of every platform. However, thanks to automation and AI, a quick and comprehensive review of all types of social media can easily be accomplished and provides expansive coverage to achieve complete transparency.
  • Consider the information in the larger context of the background check—A social media screening certainly provides insight into potential risks that an investor should be aware of. However, it is important to keep in mind that final conclusions should be made in the wider context of all the information presented in the background check.
 

Top 3 considerations for assessing social media activity

When assessing a post, like, or share for risk-related behavior, here are the top three considerations to take into account: 1. Content—What is it about the post that warrants a flag? Adverse content can appear in the form of text, images, video, etc. Content related to self-harm, extremism, substance abuse, or other similar matters can raise cause for concern and require further review. Moreover, if the subject shares and/or likes another individual’s post that promotes topics of adverse nature, this too can call for further consideration. 2. Context—In addition to reviewing the content, the context of the post must be taken into account. Factors such as the time and place it was posted, the general feedback from the thread of comments, and the reactions from other individuals are examples of how a post on its own can appear one way but can present a different perspective in a broader context. 3. Patterns—While the content and context of individual posts are crucial, looking at the bigger picture of the subject’s overall activity can help determine the risk of once-off instances versus a noticeable pattern of negative or toxic behaviors demonstrated in their general activity.

Enhancing social media background checks with the latest in technology

Sifting through hundreds of thousands of posts, likes, and shares is a challenging task to accomplish manually. It is exceptionally time-consuming, if not impossible, for a human analyst to comb through all that data. Furthermore, a social media analysis requires a high level of attention to detail, so accuracy could be compromised due to natural human limitations.

By leveraging automation and artificial intelligence, a social media analysis can be conducted in a matter of hours, if not instantaneously. Not only does utilizing technology save an ample amount of time, but it supports more coverage than what could be accomplished with a manual search.

Recognizing the power that automation and AI bring to social media background checks, Intelligo’s background intelligence’s platform offers an all-inclusive, in-depth social media feature that reviews public social media activity. Using proprietary algorithms, any adverse content that is detected is flagged and a summary of the overall findings is recorded. A seasoned analyst then reviews the automated analysis to enhance the final result. The insightful review provides clients with a comprehensive overview of risk-related content to gain a better understanding of the subject of a background check, at a rate faster than industry standards.

 

Social media background checks are here to stay

Today’s digital culture demands thorough screening beyond the scope of a traditional background search. As more and more executives are including a review of Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and other channels in their decision-making processes, a social media analysis is a key tool in uncovering information that investors must be aware of before moving forward with a business opportunity. With social media dynamically changing the background check industry, it is critical for investors to be aware of its value for pre-investment due diligence and follow best practices for the proper application of its usage.

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