I became a police officer for several reasons. I wanted to follow in my grandfather's foot steps, I wanted the excitement, I wanted to help people. I never imagined, not in a million years, I would find myself writing a blog post for the IACP while working as the social media community manager on the police commissioner's communications team. When you think about it, in 1997 the terms 'blog', 'social media', and 'community manager' had not even entered the lexicon.
But 16 years later, here I am being asked to describe my point-of-view on social media. I think my view can be summed up in the statement:
“Social media should be social”
Whether you are selling shampoo, running for political office, or working to keep the public informed of crime and safety issues, the platforms that we are using were created to be interactive. Part of the duty we accept when we step in to the social space is to listen and respond to our community. All too often, social media is seen as a way to put out information. It is that, but it is so much more.
Social media is an ongoing conversation. It is a chance to interact with people and answer their questions. It is a way to reach out and let our citizens know that we are here. To quote Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, “... this is a very challenging time, but the one thing that hasn't changed is that this is a service profession.” And in 2013, police service includes being open and available on social media.
The feedback from the community has been fantastic. Invariably after we have answered a question on Facebook or announced an officer from a new district or unit on Twitter we get a response like this:
These interactions are literally at our fingertips. Just as negative sentiment is contagious in a community, so is this good and positive feeling. We should not be lurking in the background. We are leaders of our communities and we should act as such. Providing a sense of safety to our law abiding citizens is an important part of policing. People feel an increased sense of safety if they have a relationship with the people and organization providing their protection. This relationship can be built through the exchange of information and ideas using social media.
I implore you to keep the exchange going by creating social spaces that foster a sense of openness and communication. We may just make a few allies along the way too!
I wish you all a happy, healthy and social 2013.