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Research firm launches service to sniff out embarrassing staffer tweets

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It’s beginning to look a lot like 2016.

Signs are all around that the “silent primary” is well under way. Campaigns are busy assembling campaign teams, while prospective candidates Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio are only days from officially mounting White House runs.

At the intersection of social media and politics, both candidates and staffers have become easy targets for aggressive oppo research. Adding to the problem is the growing pool of eligible staffers from a generation of individuals who spent their entire adult lives online – for better or worse. An errant tweet or Facebook post could pose headaches for a campaign later on.

Sniffing out potentially damaging online data beforehand can be crucial to a well-prepared team strategy.

With that, what could be a major hassle during the hiring process proves a big opportunity for Shield Political Research.

Shield, a Democratic opposition research firm based in South Bend, Indiana, recently unveiled its newest service for campaigns and political organizations: self-research on the social media history of potential staffers and other new hires.

The innovative social media search service comes after a wave of early campaign recruits creating distractions — and awkwardness in the media — through regretful posts discovered after the fact: misogynistic Twitter rants, swipes at early-state voters, and describing officials on both sides of the aisle as “idiots.”

“We have helped candidates who commissioned us to perform self-research to identify potentially embarrassing social media posts, many written long before they were candidates or considering running for office,” says Shield Research founder Jake Wagman in a statement. “If campaigns did an abridged version of that self-research on staffers —focusing only on social media —they could save themselves a lot of heartache.”

Shield examines social media accounts — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and others — to flag any potential sources of trouble. Among the goals, finding questionable photos, comments, tweets, “likes” or followed feeds.

His firm goes beyond a simple search, Wagman says. Shield uses triangulation, archived pages and social web analysis for a full picture of the prospective hire’s social media footprint – all of which is completed in three days or less and protected by a confidentiality clause.

Knowing a hire has a clean social background is vital to building a quality operation. It also spares them the aggravation of backtracking after discovering an irresponsible tweet or Instagram post.

“We are constantly looking at the social media pages of the opposition for potential liabilities,” Wagman says. “Our goal is to use that same set of skills to offer an easy and cost-effective solution that can save campaigns — and their staffers — from an embarrassing headline.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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