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Law Officer’s Facebook page has more fans now than our magazine’s circulation. That's amazing.

“When you talk about social media,” says Laurie Stevens, who organized the Smile Conference. “Cops think Facebook. It’s what most cops jump to.”

But it can also be dangerous.

When setting up a Facebook account, be sure to check your application settings. This will allow you to control your privacy settings. But be warned: Someone with bad intentions who wants to collect information on your members, they might be able to get it through your friends and family member’s pages.

Train as an agency on Facebook before adopting it. Delineate what you’re trying to get out of it. And don’t let anyone play games on it.

Games played once will affect your account forever. “What Simpsons character are you?” Ignore the temptation.

When entering usernames and other information in Facebook be careful. You can’t change some of it. If you misspell the name of your town, you might need to live with it.

“Facebook is a PR vehicle,” says Stevens. But an off-color remark left on your wall can be a black-eye for the organization.

Consider making fan pages for K9 units, officers, etc. This gets rid of some of the hassles of a personal page. People can follow these pages without commenting on them.

Groups vs. fan pages: a group is an association that has members; fans are aficionados.

To create a fan page, go to someone else’s fan page and in the lower left corner you should be able to “create a page like this.”

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Comment by Karen L. Bune on April 9, 2010 at 9:49am
Facebook can be dangerous. Though I don't access it often, I decided to go on it on my birthday in March and was on for about 30 minutes. That night, my computer was acting strange and locking up with 3 screens on it. I turned it on and off 6 times to no avail. When I ultimately called Dell, the first question they asked after hearing my problem was, "Have you been on Facebook"? Though I have the various protections on my computer, I was told that Facebook has problems and that viruses and spyware can get beyond the protections and that scammers have sophisticated ways of gaining access. To make a VERY long and expensive story short, I was on the phone with Dell for SIXTEEN hours to get my computer fixed--one day alone I was on SEVEN hours straight. Now, I am petrified to even try Facebook for 5 minutes though I have maybe been on it only 2-3 times since that happened. Since my experience, I have talked to 3 other people who had the same problem. I was told that social networking sites breed such problems and there was something recently on the news here in the DC area about the pitfalls such as those I encountered. So, my advice is beware. And, I didn't play the games on facebook and get involved other than reading messages!

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