Social Sentinel Blog

Be There With Social Media Threat Alerts!

Posted by Dr. Gary J. Margolis on Nov 6, 2015 1:12:26 PM

When I was just out of the police academy I had a mentor who told me that to be effective in policing a community I had to go where the people are. I had to get out of my police car and talk to people; to listen to their concerns, fears, and needs. Years later I had an education professor who said to me, "Gary, to be a good teacher you have to meet your students where they are. You have to listen to know when they're most ready to learn."

We want to help you be there!


Social media has become a fundamental part of the standard conversation that people are having on a daily basis. In fact, people are replacing face-to-face, one-to-one conversations with digital, one-to-many conversations and a big chunk of our population shares just about anything and everything via publicly available social media. Today, as recent headlines remind us, you must be a part of that conversation to uphold the safety of your community. But, you need to do so with a careful eye on maintaining community trust, respecting individual privacy, and upholding the values inherent to our society.

Here are our Top 5 Be There Tips for Educators:

1. If you don’t have a social threat alert service in place, get one.

It’s more than an insurance policy – it’s your lifeline to understanding your community (get out of the police car!) and it might be the one chance your team has to get someone in need of assistance access to the right people who can help.

2. Understand the difference between a social media monitoring service and a social media threat alert service.

The goal is to be alerted to threats – not troll social media looking for troublemakers. Please ensure that the service you select helps you maintain the careful balance between community safety and individual privacy.

3. Ensure that you and everyone on your team is receiving alerts associated with safety and security issues only – keep your searches narrow and defined.

If you want to maintain community trust, you must stick to safety and security issues. When possible, minimize what your users have access to and/or regularly check their searches to ensure compliance with your operating procedures (our Sentinel Search Library is an excellent resource for this). If you don’t have operating procedures – check this out.

4. Keep your search terms current. Make sure you add key information from recent events/shootings into your search filters to spot copycats.

Better yet, make sure your provider does that for you (we do!).

5. Extend use of your social threat alert service to those services in your district or on campus that support health, safety, and security like the counseling center, residential life, the Title IX Office, and the student conduct office. 

Getting troubled students, faculty, and staff assistance as early as possible can make all the difference in helping them and keeping the campus safe. We have found that clients who use the Social Sentinel service in this multidisciplinary manner do an excellent job identifying people in need before they become a danger to themselves or others. But make sure your provider can help you do this in a manner that is consistent with any and all laws and guidelines (e.g., FERPA, HIPPA, etc.).

If you are considering implementing a social threat alert service, check out our Questions to Ask primer before you talk to anyone! This will help you quickly understand the key issues surrounding how different service providers operate, decide what is most important to your team, and then arm you with the questions to ask to make sure you get the provider that best aligns with your objectives.


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