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What you can learn from prosecuting attorneys’ use of social media

Prosecuting attorneys social media Amanda Marrazzo (@amandamarrazzo) reports in the Chicago Tribune that Chicago area prosecuting attorneys offices are turning to social media to keep in touch with their communities and relay helpful information.

From Lake County State’s Attorney Michael G. Nerheim:

Transparency between the state’s attorney’s office, the media and the community is very important to me as the state’s attorney. I want to ensure that the media and the community are fully aware of the public information that is occurring in the office. Our staff is involved in many positive community events, and they strive every day to seek justice; these are issues that are imperative for the public to become aware of.

By building a social network, Lake County officials believe the state’s attorney has the opportunity to share educational information and communicate with members of the public more than they have before.

Kane County’s use of Twitter:

  • Twitter account for three years.
  • Tweet community and safety information and not political agendas.
  • Tweet links to depositions, press releases, grand jury indictments, the county website and public safety concerns.
  • Tweet information related to the anti-DUI campaign, and awareness of such causes as the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence.
DuPage County uses Facebook and Twitter. State’s attorney spokesman Paul Darrah told Marrazzo,

Social media, right now, is … predominantly a way of communication, particularly with younger people. It’s a nice way to get a message out in a quick … timely manner and reach as many people as possible in a short amount of time.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office “does not officially use” Twitter or Facebook,” but State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is all over it using Facebook to communicate charges and verdicts, as well as photos and information about events she attends.

Four big takeaways for lawyers and law firms:

  1. The public expects organizations to use social media, including Twitter and Facebook, to share information and connect with them in a meaningful way. The Lake County State’s Attorney Office did not start using social media on their own, people requested that they start using Facebook.
  2. More and more, people get information directly from people they trust via social media. Mainstream media, whether newspapers and local TV are no longer viewed as the principal source of local news by probably half the people in this in country. Social media gets your insight and information in the hands of the people who follow you, who in turn share it with people who trust them.
  3. Sharing information, insight, and commentary directly builds trust. People and organizations serving the public, whether county officials or law firms, obviously stand to  gain big time when people trust them.
  4. Social media is part of the fabric of America, and the world. Your failure to gain a working understanding of social media, and to use social media to connect with the people you serve is a dereliction of your duty to others — and yourself.
There’s a lot to learn from prosecuting attorneys’s use of social media – for that matter, the use of social media by organizations everywhere.