I was recently interviewed by a south Texas newspaper regarding my opinion of our government's use of social media to monitor events related to the drug war in Mexico. The interview eventually moved on to my thoughts about social media, and its place in my work. My response? I LOVE it!
This isn't because I enjoy keeping up with my friends in the midst of writing about murder and mayhem in Mexico. I actually strictly use Twitter only for professional purposes. Every one of the 144 people or organizations I follow tweet in one way, shape, or form about Mexico's drug war. Hands down, it's my top source for up-to-the-minute information.
How can that be, coming from an analyst? you might ask. Here's the key: Twitter serves as a fabulous springboard. It's raw data coming at me from multiple sources, which means I can use those reports as a starting point for verifying. Whenever there's a massive event in Mexico, Twitter lights on fire with a back-and-forth between some of the top people in journalism, academia, and government who follow the same events I do.
For example, a couple of nights ago, several attackers set fire to a casino in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, killing 53 people who probably had nothing to do with the drug trade. I spent probably 2-3 hours glued to Twitter trying to absorb as much data as I could about the attack. The next morning, I had sorted through enough information from multiple sources to put together my analysis for (what I think was) a really solid blog post. That analysis will also be the foundation for my next article for Homeland Security Today's Correspondents Watch.
And I'm not even mentioning the power of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to promote my book and my work in other outlets. I have a Facebook fan page for blog readers and fans of my forthcoming book, and they're really fabulous tools to reach people interested in the drug war on a more casual and personal level.
Twitter and Facebook fan pages can be intimidating to some, but if you're in the non-fiction business - meaning you're probably working or writing on a subject outside of your book - then I highly recommend testing the waters.
Causes Sylvia Longmire Supports
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
The Wounded Warrior Project