A final note: try not to use text-message lingo when you tweet. Compressing words into shorthand (w/ for “with”, b/c for “because”) is one thing, but a grown professional who uses terms like “gr8” and “W8ting 4 u 2 get here”—terms teenagers use to communicate—reduces their own credibility. You can do better. Practice if you need to.
Known as “the pound sign” on your phone, the symbol # preceding a word or phrase in a tweet is known as a “hashtag.” These can be formalized or humorous, but they help with Twitter searches. #Occupy, #IDtheft and #Anonymous are all examples of hashtags that police might want to follow.
Create your own hashtags to use in tweets about your community, or use existing hashtags when you're tweeting about a larger trend. In a recent post for the IACP Social Media blog, Dionne Waugh explained how @RichmondPolice uses hashtags: to track specific incidents, city news, or trending topics.
Hashtags.org and whatthetrend.com are both good ways to research hashtags. Some people prefer to “register” hashtags when they plan to tweet events or live Twitter chats, over which they have ownership. Twubs.com can help, but note that hashtag registration is generally accepted as unnecessary—hashtags catch on when used regularly.
Bringing other social media into the mix
Some law enforcement agencies or officers connect their Twitter accounts to other services like Facebook, LinkedIn and Nixle. This is perfectly acceptable, but be sure it makes sense to do so—engagement is different for Facebook and LinkedIn than it is for Twitter.
For example, I have connected a client's Facebook page to its Twitter account, because I know our Twitter followers would benefit from the news items I share in both places. My personal Facebook, however, is not connected to Twitter (even though I sometimes share thoughts in both places) because I see my Twitter account as more professional than Facebook.
Also connect Facebook to Twitter when you want to drive traffic to your Facebook page: for instance, to identify surveillance images or videos you've posted, when you need more reach than your Facebook page has. However, keep in mind that you don't need a direct link to share YouTube videos or Flickr images—these typically have a “Share” function you can use for specific items.
No article about Twitter would be complete with a mention of ways to protect yourself from scambots and phishers. In the last few weeks I've seen an influx of direct messages going something like, “You seen what this person is saying about you? Terrible things!” with a shortened link. (Twitter shortens links so that they'll fit within 140 characters.)
What cop wouldn't be immediately worried about potential reputation damage? Yet this scam has been around for a year or two. Click the link, and it grants the spambot access to your account (including your password), which it then uses to send more bogus links in fake messages. Spam like this depends on the receiver's insecurities: reputation, weight, relationships, and so on.
Remember, if a real person has a real problem with you, they should use real channels rather than acting like a middle-schooler spreading rumors. (And would you really want to stoop to that level for a legitimate complaint?)
- ’Official’ Unofficial Law Enforcement Twitter Accounts
- Do You Know Your Social Media Policy?
- Teens Migrating to Twitter
- IACP Social Media blog
About The Author:
Christa M. Miller is a freelance writer based in Greenville, S.C. She specializes in law enforcement and digital forensics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.