For the second year in a row, the IACP Conference has featured a "Meet the Bloggers" workshop. It was impressive to see such a well-attended, early morning (and post Host Chief's Night) session! This session provided an opportunity for audience members to interact with a panel made up of The Social Media Beat's regular bloggers: Lynn Hightower, Dionne Waugh, Chief Billy Grogan, Rebecca McClelland, Mark Economou, and Sergeant Tim Burrows. The bloggers received some great questions from the audience. Topics included recent blog posts, trends, and emerging issues.
One of the most popular topics was the issue of negative comments. The group discussed the fear of negative comments but acknowledged that those incidents are few and far between. He recommended building a dialogue with the community. He also discussed the important distinction between a negative comment and an inappropriate comment. Panelists agreed about the importance of having a policy and a disclaimer regarding the removal of comments on the site. The Toronto Police Service terms of service
was highlighted as an example.
Other popular topics included using humor appropriately, determining how you are going to engage the public, and the generational gap. One audience member inquired about the appropriateness of social media shorthand. For example, using "ur" instead of "you are." Panelists concurred that while they occasionally abbreviate numbers, it is important for agencies to be professional.
The group also discussed whether it is appropriate for an agency to have more than account on a given social media platform, such as multiple Facebook accounts. The panelists agreed that there is no single correct answer but that more is not necessarily better and that quality and unified messaging are key. Some agencies with a large number of accounts find that many are inactive, taking away from the overall agency engagement strategy.
The bloggers had a lively discussion about the authenticity of accounts in a specific person's name rather than a general agency account, such as a Twitter account with the chief of police's name. Most of the panelists felt that if the account is in the name of an individual, it should be that person tweeting or posting and that if it is not authentic, it can be damaging to the individual and agency. Another panelist found that the PIO communicating sending out information via the chief's account worked successfully for them. One suggestion was made that if it does need to be another individual, you can indicate by posting the authors initials at the end of the message.
Panelists also acknowledged the challenge of addressing emerging incidents and when to share information. Agencies are finding that some traditional media outlets or individuals are sharing information about incidents via social media before they have even talked to law enforcement. The panel also discussed when a delay in sharing information is appropriate for safety or investigative reasons, whereas sometimes, as in the case of traffic issues, immediacy is key.
Overall, the session was engaging and left the panel with a lot of great ideas for new posts. The workshop also inspired some attendees to serve as guest bloggers in the coming months so stay tuned!