Facebook is Not the Web
Big BJ Barnes, the longtime sheriff of Guilford County, NC, looks like a southern lawman out of a bad old movie, but he's really smart and effective and seems likely to get reelected in this urbanized patch of Piedmont for as many more terms as he'd like.
Barnes has almost 4,500 friends on Facebook, and he told me recently that it's become a useful way for citizens to share and receive information with his office.
Today, for example, he posted an update about a tragic killing spree that shook the county late last year. His earlier posts in the wake of the shootings offered people a place to share their grief in the comments, and also served as a reminder of the toll such brutal cases take on the men and women who work in law enforcement.
I do wish the same information was posted to an open website, which would be easy to do via an application like HootSuite. Not everyone is on Facebook, and not everyone who is on the service loves it, and it has some real limitations compared to other publishing platforms in terms of the presentation and archiving of information.
Like AOL before it, Facebook limits the web experience. It's great to see public officials using the net to communicate with the people they serve, but Facebook alone is no substitute for a comprehensive web strategy. (The same logic applies to businesses.)
So, good on our sheriff for being accessible and up to date. Let's keep that momentum going beyond Facebook.