A lot has happened this past year when it comes to law enforcement and social media, and the experience for Richmond Police
has been no different.
We’ve used various social networking platforms to solve crimes; communicate better with our community; and share important information that people need to know.
But I think the best way we can continue this trend nation- and world-wide, is to share our experiences and our advice with other agencies. So to that end, here are a few pieces of advice from the Richmond Police Department’s four years of using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Foursquare, Pinterest, and UStream:
*Don’t disregard a post because you think it’s silly.
For example: earlier this month we had four officers stack a bunch of trashcans on top of one another to help rescue two cats that had been stuck in a tree for five days. Though we got some questionable looks when we tried to explain why this was interesting or important, our Facebook fans LOVED it. The photos and paragraph blurb got shared and posted on dozens of sites across the country. We gained several new fans with whom to share our message and, most importantly, it reminded people are our officers are human too and they do good things in the community!
*Don’t focus on the numbers.
I know the number of likes or followers may be one of the few ways to measure return on investment, but it’s not nearly as important has having good, two-way communication with your community. Focus on posting quality information, photos and videos with your fans, as well as responding promptly when they ask you questions or share information.
*Do have a social media policy.
I continue to stress this because it both protects an agency and helps guide you in your mission of how you want to use social media. The most commonly asked question I still get is how to deal with negative comments. By spelling out how you will handle this type of situation in your policy, you will know what to do when that does happen (though I will advise that we get FAR more positive comments than negative), and you will be able to point to your Department’s policy as the reason for your actions when you are questioned by the public.
*Do be willing to try new things.
We’ve tried out the various social networks mentioned above, but later determined that they’re not all for us. Some sites work better than others, and that’s OK because we experimented with it and learned for ourselves what works best. We’ve also expanded our social media use to allow three of our sworn officers to have their own RPD official Twitter accounts. I know it can be a little nerve-wracking to give up some of the control, but these three officers know what they’re doing; we trust them; and we have policies in place in case anything goes wrong. But we know they’ll represent RPD well!
So, good luck with your social media efforts in 2013! And if we at Richmond Police can ever help, don’t hesitate to tweet or Facebook us!