According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, police in Boynton Beach, near Palm Beach, have enlisted Twitter to help catch a suspect in the armed robbery of a gas station. A message asking, “Can you ID this armed robbery suspect?” was sent out via Twitter with a link to online surveillance footage.

“It’s an easy way to reach people very quickly,” said Seamus Condron, community manager of mediabistro.com, an online media and training website. “This is a really large set of eyes and ears that police can call into action.”

In South Florida, police in Boynton Beach and Boca Raton were among the first in law enforcement to embrace websites like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace as additional ways to connect with their communities and gain residents to help fight crime.

Boynton Beach and Boca Raton police departments began sending messages via Twitter in the past year, and have now procured around 850 followers each.

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I am an Intern at IF Marketing and Advertising and we recently undertook the task of integrating social media into our long term plan as a company. Here is the strategy we explored…

In this “Web 2.0” era it is increasingly hard to stay on top of the newest, trendiest sites that seem to pop up almost daily. IF Marketing and Advertising was faced with a task. We needed to integrate the ever-growing popularity of social networking sites into our game plan as a marketing agency and see if these sites could profit our clients. After much research, the most obvious question was where to start.

First, it was important to identify which sites serve what purpose. For professional use we chose LinkedIn because it is user friendly and is building a reputation for professionalism. In fact, a group of job seekers in Orange County, California have formed a regional job search group on LinkedIn called “Linked Orange County California” and is now among the nation’s top regional job search groups. While LinkedIn is the most popular of the professional breed of social networking, sites like Ning and Plaxo are worth checking out.

Facebook would probably be considered the standard for any social networking site so of course IF Marketing has a Facebook page, but Facebook is limited in its ability as a medium to communicate information to clients and customers. Since we already utilize blogging for our homepage and clients’ sites, the next step was to extend our blogging to popular and easy to use sites such as WordPress, Blogger and Technorati.

Twitter’s popularity as a micro-blogging site has sky rocketed in the past two months and is the “buzz” word of the year so far. While Twitter is appealing to people who want the world to know what they are doing at any given moment, it is also a useful tool to develop and maintain new professional contacts and relationships with companies and people all over the world. Since it is fairly new, the applications Twitter can have on business are a little unclear but research has shown that experience and time invested on Twitter can result in increased awareness and traffic to your site. You can follow us on Twitter @IFmarketing.

Finally, sites such as Youtube, Digg and StumbleUpon are more focused on sharing of content rather than building social networks and relationships but the content on these sites is highly entertaining, informative and worth sharing.

Overall, we chose not to dive in, head-first into the mass of social networks that seem to occupy every niche, but focus on a few diverse social networking sites that have proven to generate users and would increase exposure for us. If you are interested in whether or not your username is available for all of the different social media sites out there, visit http://www.knowem.com and check it out.