I remember when I first started using social media to promote a new way of communication for police and law enforcement agencies I would often say, “What’s not to like about it…it’s free!”
Nothing has changed about that in the last four or so years. Social media is still free to use. It is still free to create accounts and it is still free to share your message. BUT, please don’t confuse free to use or free to share with the belief that social media doesn’t come with a price tag. Quite simply, because it does.
Entering the world of social media is free and I believe because of that, many agencies and officers have jumped in with both feet without considering the actual cost of using social media.
When social media was new to policing it seemed that everyone was opening accounts on various platforms just because that’s what everyone else was doing. There was lots of talk about having a Twitter account or a Facebook profile because, “That’s where the people are.”
We are now seeing that continue with the creation and ground swell of interest in “the next big thing.” Agencies are making sure that they jump on board when they hear about something new and amazing available to spread your message.
Now, Pinterest is a big draw with the public so lots of agencies are actively pinning ‘stuff’ with no idea why, who they are marketing to or what the actual value is for them. Not to mention if they are breaking any copyright laws.
Once you’re all set up, then the cost considerations start to roll in. Human resources, training, strategy development, monitoring, measurement. All of these seem to be too often after thoughts in the process, when in all actuality; they need to be addressed up front.
The one that I see lacking most often is strategy. Do you realize how many agencies haven’t really considered why they are using social media? Sure, you’ll hear all the basic reasons:
• Connect with the community
• Open the lines of communication
• Share our information
My question to all of those would simply be, “were you not doing that before social media?” I really hope all were.
I believe that to serve your community in the space of social media you need to be able to answer these simple questions before you open your accounts: why, what, where, when, who, how, and how much. Sound familiar to all you PIO’s?
• Why will we use social media?
• What will we accomplish with the use of social media?
• Where will we post our information in social media?
• When will we post in social media?
• How are we going to present our information in social media?
• How much will a properly run social media presence cost us?
To be able to answer any of those questions you actually need to have a plan in place. Call it a strategy, or an operational social media plan or whatever you want, but have something that acts as a blueprint and a guide or goal setting for your program.
If you don’t take the time to do that first, I will guarantee one thing: you will have no idea if you ever accomplish your goals if you don’t set them.
Failing to pay attention to those simple yet very important details will end up costing you valuable time and resources that most of us just can’t afford to be wasting.