While attending the Blog World and New Media Expo 2009 I had the privilege of hearing Chris Brogan speak several times throughout the conference. I also had a chance to speak with him for a few seconds, but I took full advantage of those seconds and went right after my niche, Social/New Media and law enforcement. Chris was intrigued with the topic when I spoke with him and through email the following interview transpired:
Mike: Q: Do you think law enforcement agencies should be participating in social media?
Chris: A: Absolutely. People are volunteering up lots of usable data on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and elsewhere. Law enforcement organizations are doing some great stuff in various areas, including the Twitter presence of the Baltimore PD, and several other projects. The Ten Point Coalition in Boston is using Facebook to see which gang members are still alive, by asking them to keep their status line updated as a way of checking in. There are some great projects going on, and law enforcement's time to get involved is now.
Mike: Q: Should law enforcement behave any differently in their use of social media compared to regular brands or businesses (not including their specific business model of law enforcement)?
Chris: A: As transparency is the keyword of using social media, it's important that law enforcement usage of social media be obvious as to whether the information will be shared in confidence or not. There are places/times when it's good to have a sympathetic face, and others where you've gotta be the voice of the law. Be clear when you're doing which.
Mike: Q: Without requiring you to turn your crystal ball on, do you think social media is here to stay?
Chris: A: Social media has always been around. The telephone is social media. So are letters. This is just new tools for old methods. The thing is, these tools will be around. I think there will be other changes ahead.
Mike: Q: Do you see any pitfalls in law enforcement agencies using social media?
Chris: A: I think there are always risks. This is a lot of information, kept in textual form, out on the open web. There are ways people can start trying to seek out legal information or surveillance information and the like, but remember that this data is human-entered. If you're putting out information that can be used against you in some way, that's a matter of education and not the tools.
Mike: Q: Do you see social media sites like Twitter and Facebook could be used to communicate early warnings say in a 911 format in the future?
Chris: A: I think Twitter's doing a great job of this. Amber alerts, and lots of other alerts are moving across these tools. They're one-to-many and they promote group think. Imagine things like school threat systems. Right now, they mass-SMS a bunch of phones. However, if it's a false alarm, or if the info changes, a system like Twitter is far more dynamic.
Whether it is social media & marketing or social media & law enforcement, Chris Brogan is well versed in social media. He provides some great information for the law enforcement community to think about before getting into social media, but most importantly as Chris says, "law enforcement's time to get involved is now."