Confessions from a paid shill.

I can’t name names for privacy reasons.
The gist of what I do is teach computers to do sentiment analysis on social media posts that are of interest to clients, tag them based on their various properties (author, sentiments, keywords, etc), and add them to a giant graph of all social media posts we’re interested in, who else has retweeted them or the link, who responded to them, etc. We use this to estimate exposure numbers and influence, and try to isolate the key people in a social graph which are causing an opinion to form. (Ideally, on the order of minutes or hours instead of days or weeks.)
Once we isolate key people, we look for people we know are in their upstream — people that they read posts from, but who themselves are less influential. (This uses the same social media graph built before.) We then either start flame wars with bots to derail the conversations that are influencing influential people (think nonsense reddit posts about conspiracies that sound like Markov chains of nonsense other people have said), or else send off specific tasks for sockpuppets (changing this wording of an idea here; cause an ideological split there; etc).
The goal is to keep opinions we don’t want fragmented and from coalescing in to a single voice for long enough that the memes we do want can, at which points they’ve gotten a head start on going viral and tend to capture a larger-than-otherwise share of media attention.
(All of the stuff above is basically the “standard” for online PR (usually farmed out to an LLC with a generic name working for the marketing firm contracted by the big firm; deniability is a word frequently said), once you’re above a certain size.)
Careful analysis of online communities (or reading the papers where they got caught) would tell you that various nations are using similar technologies against their citizens and other nations. It’s not entirely about business that China is concerned with building a domestic social network, and DARPA runs extensive research programs on social graph analysis and influence, on behalf of the Pentagon.