One of the most important components of a good, community oriented, social media strategy is localized content. Precincts are geographically dispersed through the jurisdiction based on the geography of the city – and in social media, content should be dispersed the same way, through use of separate accounts or hashtags for different areas . Localizing of social media messages is especially important in large metropolitan areas where interests and incidents vary based on geography.
A resident living on the east side of anytown will be interested in updates about recent robberies coming from his local precinct while a different resident on the west side could use a tweet about the road closure around the corner.
The fine men and women of the Seattle PD, a department which has long been recognized for its innovation in social media (go Hempfest,) understand the importance of localizing and have even taken it a step further. Aside from opening separate accounts for their precincts, they recently introduced “Tweets by the Beat“, a web page to help residents identify their local precinct twitter feed using a map of the city. This is especially important since many people are not aware what “beat” they live in and therefore would not know what feed to follow. I put in a random address and found myself following SeattlePDB2 – now only three things are left:
1. Make sure “Tweet by the Beat” is available on Chrome
2. Turn the map of precincts into a clickable map that directs residents to their feeds
3. Talk to the community!
Good job Boston. We’ll forgive you for the cheesy headline – you earned it all.
Hopefully our thoughts on Boston PD’s social media operation in the last week will be published soon, in the meantime here are some thoughts:
1.Boston PD Twitter jumped from around 40,000 followers to over 300,000. They were in the eye of the storm, but no one would follow them if they weren’t saying anything interesting.
2. They were right to use Twitter as a main means of communication, leaving Facebook mostly for posting pictures of suspects/license plates etc.
3. Oddly quiet during the hour or two of the standoff in Watertown. Yes, of course it was a high intensity but since every news camera was there, an update would be nice.
4. The Tweet asking people to stop tweeting from scanners was RT’d 20,000 times. Twenty thousand. Think what that means about how the public views the police and whether or not they can respect them.
Hopefully Eddie Davis and his folks are sound asleep or at least enjoying a well deserved lobster roll. We will all be rooting for the Red Sox today (Yes – ALL OF US!)
7:00 am, still unfolding but so far the public can only applaud BPD’s use of social media during this crisis. Alerts are timely, rumors are refuted, and information is being sent constantly. BPD obviously realizes the whole world is listening to their scanners and getting live updates – and they manage to stay on track with the public’s concerns through the right medium – Twitter. It is no wonder their feed tripled in the past few days, from around 40K to 150K.
Hats off the Commissioner Davis and Cheryl Fiandaca
While Police have used crowds to help identify perpetrators long before social media, the recent Boston attacks take the use of the public to investigate a crime to a whole new level.
Early on in the game members of the public have been very involved in trying to piece together information. Users have created Gifs that helped others view all pictures in sequence and the Twitter world was, well… atwitter with information. However, the good intentions have led to some misidentification of innocent people who were caught on camera in the wrong place with the wrong face.
We debated between ourselves the idea of law enforcement releasing all images and video available to them to the public and letting multiple brains worldwide do the work. It’s a simple numbers game – when you have hours and hours of footage and massive amounts of information, the more eyeballs you have the easier it would be to find that needle in the haystack. However, this is not without risk and may be a little too progressive for law enforcement which often likes to keep information under wraps, often rightfully so. Also, as our friend @T_Burrows put it “The danger lies in not properly investigating leads that are generated or not following up information. There in lies the problem with mass crowd sourcing. If anything is missed, or not properly actioned, you run the risk of being accused of nut fulfilling a complete investigation or discarding something based on time and other resources.”
But this debate didn’t last long, as the FBI just released the images of the two suspects. And now Crowdsourcing takes on its true meaning – it is the nerds’ time to shine.
Within two hours, users on two popular sites, reddit and 4chan – already identified the brands on the two baseball caps worn by the suspects, information that will undoubtly contribute to the investigation. This story is worth it’s own link: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/04/boston-bombing-suspects-investigation/64341/
There is absolutely no doubt that more Crowdsourced information will come soon. The lessons are clear.
- The public LIKES to help. Even those critical of law enforcement (many 4chan members are not exactly on the good side of the law) want to contribute to public efforts like these. Whether it is from pure intentions or a chance for some online street-cred , no one cares.
- The public CAN help. Perhaps law enforcement already knew about these caps. But perhaps they didn’t? And perhaps in the future they could delegate to the public and use the sensitive time to focus on other tasks ?
- The public SHOULD help. The effect of the Boston bombings go way beyond the casualties and even beyond the good people of Boston. We all want to catch these guys because we all feel attacked in some way shape or form. And as long as the public is encouraged to focus its energies on scrutinizing information and trying to come up with clues, there is less time for blame games, incitement and any other unpleasant side effects.
no words for the tragedy unfolding in Boston. Really no words, and I hope we can all stay civilized in the debate that will surely follow once the identity of the bombers is revealed.
We have long commended the Boston PD for their great use of social media, under the leadership of Commissioner Davis who really values strong community connections. Here they are once again finding the most efficient way to communicate with Bostonians especially in light of reports that cell phone coverage in the area is spotty while internet connections (as usual) remain crystal clear.
The BPD Twitter feed is serving as a source of information and updates today, and the police is using it to ask the public for footage from the marathon.
Crowdsourcing counter-terrorism 101. Since we are all affected by it, we may as well all fight it.
Use your professional judgment, when you’re on the beat and when you Tweet
Police Commissioner Kelly of the NYPD recently released an Operations Order for the use of Social Media. I must admit that when I first got my hands on it I approached it with some skepticism, fearing the Department might choose to prohibit all use of social media outlets by uniformed members of service.
I was pleasantly surprised that, much like we recommended in our thesis (completely coincidentally,) the Commissioner recognized that shutting down all social media use for 40,000 New Yorkers is unrealistic. Instead, he chose to view the use of social media as many people have come to view it today – a virtual extension of ourselves. And if Police Officers are expected to behave a certain way on and off duty, the same etiquette, professionalism and good judgment apply on Facebook or Twitter (OK, maybe he did read our thesis!)
Without revealing the whole document, some good points are made that hopefully will resonate with most UMOS:
Urged not to disclose their status – It is wise to caution UMOS to keep their professional life and personal life separate, but what really struck me here was the use of the word “urge” as opposed to prohibiting it altogether. Again, this demonstrates an understanding that a person can’t be too separated from his or her online persona, and if being a cop is a big part of your life, your Facebook profile may reflect that.
No Photos in uniform, excluding promotions, ceremonies etc – fair enough. Though it might be nice for the community to get a glimpse into some visuals of a “day in the life” of an officer, when you are dealing with such a large department under constant scrutiny, an inappropriate photo may very quickly make the rounds and find itself under a snarky headline in the Post.
No communications with Minors, witnesses, perps, lawyers etc – Well, obviously. But there are people who still forget that social media interactions can be documented, saved and eventually used as evidence. There may be a few officers out there who think that by using their personal social media profile to talk to an informant they are being more discrete than chatting on the phone or on the street. They aren’t.
Commands and units are prohibited from operating individual accounts or pages – We are strong supporters of decentralizing communications to the precinct level at the NYPD. Residents of the Upper West Side and Residents of Park Slope need different information and should be able to access it through localized, geographically based NYPD pages. However, in the past commands have opened up individual Facebook pages, many just becoming a hub for retired cops to chat and rant. Any curious resident who would choose to follow his or her local precinct might be getting invitations to department picnics and rants about overtime instead of essential, local information.
Hopefully, the next step will be opening precinct level social media accounts that will become neighborhood information hubs and will allow officers to become more accessible and familiar to residents. These would have to be regulated to some extent by 1PP, but the process needs to start soon. The Department might not be in a rush to get its social media presence optimized, but the residents of NYC are already fluent in the medium and are ready to chat.
This is an article we wrote for The American Police Beat, in their September 2012 issue. The article is posted online here. Full text below:
There is an important discussion picking up speed these days on how police departments should enter social media. But before we think about how, let’s think about what, as in “what is this social media thing?” Because to use it well you have to understand the culture and tone of social media dialogue. Respecting this culture is critical to getting the most out of social media for your department, and so we begin with a discussion of what social media is, and what it isn’t.
For starters, it’s big. It is estimated that nearly half of all U.S. adults are on social media, and that number is still growing. It’s also here to stay for a while. The average age of the social media user is rising, because what we once thought of as a hangout for teens and young adults is actually capturing and keeping the attention of every age group, and because those of us who signed up in our younger days are pretty much sticking around. It is pervasive, a part of our daily lives.
More than half of Americans on Facebook log onto their accounts at least once a day, if not more often, and about a third of Twitter users do the same. One quarter of 18 to 34 year olds log on through their mobile devices before they even get out of bed in the morning.
But what any organization needs to realize is that social media’s sheer size and popularity are not the whole story. At first glance the social media sphere looks like marketing gold; millions of Americans gathering in one place to check things out online. But we (yes, we both fall squarely in that wake-up-to-Facebook category…) aren’t there just looking to find marketing messages about our favorite products. This is the critical point that police department’s entering social media must understand – social media isn’t just a new place to post a message, it’s a place for a different sort of engagement altogether.
Social media is where we get much of our news and information, outpacing television and newspaper as the top source for local news among adults younger than 40. But it’s also where we catch up with our friends, where we share pictures of our kids, where we have conversations and voice our opinions, and where we just plain hang out. We are not there just to listen, but to participate as well, and social media gives us each a voice to do so. In this hyper-connected arena the traditional roles of broadcaster and audience are muddled. The audience is connected to itself. The general population receives a message, but also converses amongst itself to move information and opinions. This user-generated content takes on a very human tone of voice. It sounds like conversation, not like a commercial.
Police departments beginning to build a presence on social media must respect this culture of conversation and interaction, because the social media user doesn’t log on looking for your public relations campaign. A traditional press release is not what makes us grab our iPhones to check Facebook and Twitter as soon as we wake up. That’s not what makes us hit the “like” or “follow” button, or captures our attention. We are looking for entertainment, for humor, for engagement and interaction, for two-way participatory conversations, and most of all for authenticity – and as social media becomes more and more a part of daily life, we are getting very good at ignoring what does not sound like authentic engagement.
The good news is that authenticity can come naturally to the police profession, with just a little work at it. We’re betting not many cops out there signed up for the fame, fortune and popularity the job brings. Police officers believe in the job they are doing. The desire to connect with and serve the public is genuine. More broadly, police departments already understand the value of engaging with a community to build trust and partnership. So in some sense, calling social media a new conversation or a new phenomenon is not quite accurate when it comes to police. It is a new tool, but it can and should build on engagement practices stretching all the way back to Peel’s principles, and the foundations of
This is a natural advantage over most other organizations on social media. As a police department online you don’t have to sound like corporate marketing. You can sound authentic – can be authentic – rather easily online, because you aren’t there to turn a profit, but to improve a public service that you already provide, and that society already values. You don’t have to sound like you are trying to sell me something, because unlike so many other entities on social media today, you actually aren’t.
So when you think about establishing a social media platform don’t envision a microphone and PA system for broadcasting; don’t think about public relations and traditional marketing. Social media is much more like a phone than it is a loudspeaker; a tool for two-way conversation that connects to the living rooms, backyards, cafes, pubs and parks in your communities. Put down the loudspeaker, and start having a genuinely engaging conversation.
Quantifying social media influence is a very difficult task, one that many large organizations are struggling with.
How do we know if it is working? Many try to answer that question by counting number of “likes” on Facebook, or “followers” on Twitter. Before you start counting numbers – we suggest taking a step back and asking yourselves, have you defined what “it” is?
Police Departments have very specific goals, ones that can be broken down and measured. How many people attended the last community council meeting? Are we attracting a higher number of college educated recruits? Is crime reporting going up or down in a certain precinct?
You social media goals should be measured against your day to day goals. Instead of racing to reach a target number of Facebook friends, which may be less meaningful than you think, as yourself what the beat cops are trying to achieve and see how you can reinforce that with your social media strategy.
Want to increase crime reporting among illegal immigrants in a certain community? Set a goal to be followed or Amplified by the local language community paper.
DUIs are up among teens? Set a goal to get engage with more teenagers or their influencers online.
Remember – you shouldn’t have a social media presence just to have one. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or whatever your poison should all compliment the daily activity of your cops.