Monday, September 5, 2016

Twitter for Crime Analysts

I originally wrote this post for a software company’s blog in 2014. This company was bought out and recently their blog and website have been removed from the web permanently. I am reposting it here for posterity. 

I really enjoy social media. Not only is it great on a personal level but it is very beneficial for law enforcement agencies to use to connect with the citizens they serve. But there are other reasons to be on social media. Social media is a great way to connect with others in your profession. It’s also a great way to stay up with things that are going on in your community and in the world.

There are a number of social media networks. Each of them have strengths and weaknesses. Facebook is great for connecting with relatives and classmates, LinkedIn caters to professional networking and job seekers. Pinterest is great for hobbyists. My favorite is Twitter which really excels with breaking news and links to newly published stories and articles. Because of it’s strengths I think that Twitter has a lot of value for a crime analyst.

So just what is Twitter.

Twitter is a “microblog” where users can send short, 140 character or less “tweets” or posts. You can post comments, links and even photos to your Twitter feed. Any of these can be seen by someone who goes to your Twitter page. Additionally, a Twitter user can “follow” another Twitter account and see that user’s posts in their “feed” without having to go to their page. It’s also possible to organize those feeds you follow into “lists”. You can even send private “Direct Messages” to those Twitter users who follow you. These direct messages are only visible to the person you sent them to.

Because of it’s brief nature, it is especially suited to sending a comment or headline and an Internet link or URL. For example, a news website might send a headline and link to a news story. The nature of these messages is one reason that Twitter is very popular with news organizations and journalists. This popularity is also the reason that Twitter is so useful for crime analysts.

Let me explain how I use Twitter.

First, I subscribe to the Twitter feeds of all the local news organizations and local journalists in my area. These accounts will often post news stories that relate to crime stories in neighboring communities as well as posts from local journalists where they may comment about stories they are working on.

I also subscribe to the major nation and international news outlets. Twitter has become so ubiquitous in journalism that mainly times, they are quite far ahead when it comes to breaking news. Major news stories will be posted to Twitter near real time and well before it will hit TV, print or even a news website.

I also follow entities like the Department of Justice, area law enforcement agencies, crime analyst organizations and crime analysts. This allows me to see press releases, posts about new programs or publications.

I then organize these Twitter accounts into lists such as local news, national news, law enforcement related accounts, etc. I also use a Twitter client called Tweetdeck that allows me to display these lists side by side. Nearly anytime I am at the computer, either at work or at home I keep Tweetdeck up so I can monitor my Twitter feeds.

Also, several times during the day I will post comments and links to crime analysis and law enforcement related stories. For instance, if I run across a news story that talks about how a crime analyst solved a crime problem I’ll post it to Twitter so others who follow me can see it. I’ll also post links to other crime stories that catch my eye such as a new crime trend, a public policy piece or new technology. This way, anyone who follows me on Twitter can also see these stories and comment on them. I also will comment on tweets from others or “re-tweet” their post to my followers.

Even though tweets are only 140 characters, Twitter is a lot deeper than I can cover here. However, the tech website Mashable has a great Beginners Guide To Twitter that should get you going. Once you’re on Twitter you can follow me. My account name or handle is @scott_dickson

Here’s a couple of other good Twitter accounts for crime analysts:

International Association of Crime Analysts - @crimeanalysts

National Institute of Justice - @OJPNIJ

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