The US Department of State has jumped into Facebook amid a growing number of federal agencies that are doing the same. Other federal agencies involved in social media are the National Security Agency, US Army, US Navy, US Coast Guard, The White House, and many others. The federal government is clearly becoming a leader in communicating their message through “social networking” sites. But is the federal government setting the standard on how to be involved in “social media?” How about from a national security perspective? There are not a lot of private national security companies for obvious reasons. However, law enforcement is in the business of national security particularly post 09/11. So why is law enforcement so slow to respond to the obvious?
The obvious is that social networking sites offer law enforcement a new way to communicate to their consumers, constituents, and others. The “others” category is a group of people who transcend the the geographical area of a law enforcement agency and consist of web users, the world wide web. Typically law enforcement only communicated to their local citizens by television, news paper, or radio, which was geographically limiting. The web allows for a much broader audience even an international audience. Additionally, it must be assumed that a certain percentage of a law enforcement agencies local constituents are also involved in social networking sites. But, why would a law enforcement agency care to broadcast information to anyone other than their local citizens?
Because prior to the “blow up” of social networking sites in the last few years the web was primarily a reference tool to gather information and was not used as much for “social” online communication. The change in culture that has occurred is epic and is not a fade. People are consuming news from Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and other websites that were not typical news outlets, but are now. We all can agree that how people are accessing information has changed. A quick stat that supports this, “more than 5 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each week” on Facebook (Facebook Statistics). It is no wonder the federal government is getting on board with social media. By setting up communication channels on social networking sites they are to reaching out to a growing number of people who are gathering information from places like Facebook and Twitter and not from newspapers or television.
Hopefully law enforcement will see the value in getting their message out through social networking sites. Be it a press release, wanted person information, missing person information, crime prevention information and so on. The US government has invested in communication through social networking sites, specifically from a national security perspective maybe law enforcement will take this cue and get involved as well. Just to be fair, not each and every law enforcement agency is oblivious to using social networking sites. There are some using social networking sites to further their communication, however, in general law enforcement has not overwhelmingly jumped into the conversation just yet. Mike Vallez