Yeah, I know. “Social bookmarking” is a ridiculous term. Brings to mind a visual of tweens giggling uncontrollably in a library. Next I’ll be telling you to read reports out loud to each other around a campfire, right?
Actually, social bookmarking can be a pretty powerful branding tool. It can help law enforcement agencies and professionals alike curate important content that supports what they’re doing.
Say you’re an identity theft expert. Not only could you bookmark items from national news about ID theft; you’d also bookmark stories from local and regional media to show the problem in your area. And you might bookmark interviews and presentations from other detectives on the subject.
It does that by aggregating links to news items on a particular topic or set of topics that you want to draw attention to. That way, visitors to your site have a better context for what you provide.
How I bookmark
I start with Google Alerts, sometimes Twitter too. Alerts pull in news items and blogs based on keywords I’ve specified, like “Internet evidence.” I go through the listed items in each email and click on the ones that seem most pertinent to my interest areas. If someone tweets an interesting-looking link, I click on it to read. Then I bookmark and “tag” (organize by keyword) the items I want.
This makes it easy for me to go back and find it again if, say, I plan to use it for a blog entry. For my client, it’s a way to build a portfolio of product reviews, news from around the world that supports his company’s mission, and media coverage.
How this works for law enforcement
PIOs can derive a lot of use from a tool like this. Day to day, bookmarking and tagging items can help support initiatives like crime mapping. Do media stories accurately reflect the statistics? Good reporters should already be referring to maps—many news sites post them—but media perspective will be different from police’s.
In an ongoing crisis, for another example, a PIO might bookmark all the news coverage—local and national. A high-profile issue such as a missing child or serial offender will result in dozens of media interviews, which may result in actionable intelligence.
Aggregating bookmarks in one place is important for the public, too. It promotes transparency, shows your agency is organized about paying attention to what’s going on in the community.
This is true even when there’s a scandal involving an officer. Just as an internal investigation must be fair and balanced, so must its presentation to the community. Bookmarking coverage, again, shows transparency, a willingness to face trouble head-on. It can be one part of promoting public trust.
Individual cops can use it, too. My introductory example was about identity theft experts, but the possibilities are limitless for investigators from all walks: gang officers, detectives assigned to domestic violence cases, school resource officers… the list goes on, and can include officers seeking to educate each other as well as the public.
I use social bookmarking service Delicious, but the problem with that is when links become outdated. Many news sites remove their archives after just a week or so. (I’ve found TV news tends to stay up longer than print news.) Still, tags are limitless and you can make notes on your bookmarks.
Recently I was approached to blog about iCyte (no they didn’t offer me anything), free social bookmarking that doubles as a capture tool. Bookmarked pages remain intact even after the original host has deleted them, because they are saved on the iCyte server. You can have multiple projects, save some or all of a page, tag pages, make notes, and so forth.