The Social Media Beat

Creating Your Social Media Presence from Scratch - Part 2

Creating Your Social Media Presence from Scratch - Part 2

By: Dave Norris
Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dave Norris

Dave Norris is a sergeant with San Mateo, California, Police Department.

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Today’s guest post comes from Sergeant Dave Norris who has been with the San Mateo, California, Police Department since 1993. After serving in a variety of positions including Field Training Officer, Narcotics and Vice, and Investigations, he is currently assigned to Community and Media Relations. The position oversees SMPD’s Police Activities League, Civilian Volunteers, Neighborhood Watch, Plan Review for CPTED, School Resource Officer Programs, and “other projects as directed by the Chief.” He also handles Public Information and Social Media, having expanded SMPD’s Community Alert outreach from an email list of about 300 to over 13,000 direct subscribers across a number of social media platforms.

In Part One of this blog, we discussed the Research and Direction Phase – subscribing to other agencies and evaluating their content for reference; and the Policy, Procedure, and Scope Phase, about how to take your time preparing and starting your venture in public messaging when you are ready, and ensuring that your agency understands the level of exposure and its permanence in the media world.

This part of the series provides a couple of helpful hints and processes as you start building your multimedia base and will take us into developing an articulable purpose behind use of social media. I believe that it is critical that a law enforcement agency has a good idea of what it wants out of social media exposure before actually taking that step.

Establishing the Online Persona of your Agency

Currently there is a lot of talk in law enforcement social media about “Building Your Brand” as an agency. This part requires the Ad Exec in you or at least some creativity from your team. Research online and find out whether your agency’s nickname is unique. For example, I quickly found that searching “SMPD” online yielded a bit more “Santa Monica Police Department” than it did “San Mateo Police Department”. We always refer to ourselves as “SMPD”, but clearly our bigger cousin down in Southern Cal had the upper hand. A try with “San Mateo PD” was much more accurate for us, so that became our “Screen-name” - @SanMateoPD on Twitter, and YouTube, Wordpress, HootSuite, and Instagram all got the “SanMateoPD” nickname.

I also ultimately asked our city IT person to create for me a city email under SanMateoPD as well – this comes in handy in identifying your social media presence as “Official” (in other words, it allowed me to get that cool little badge and checkmark on our Twitter Profile).

Consistency and identity is important. Why?  For three reasons:
* It helps your audience. They will know where to find you, no matter what medium they are looking for. It will probably be just as helpful to you and your agency – it will be easier for you and/or your team to locate and to refer new followers.
* It helps your contributors. This is your agency’s identity. It serves as a constant reminder to the contributors that everything coming from these social media sources is representative of your law enforcement agency.
* It helps your legacy. At some point, you are going to be leaving this responsibility to someone else, or at least sharing it. Having a consistent user name makes this a whole lot easier.

Develop a Mission

One of the first things that I did as I began researching is I held conversations with a number of our command staff, including our Chief, to get a firm idea of what our agency’s mission was.

“Cut the media out of the loop,” was an early battle cry from command staff. Obviously, we can’t truly do that – the media will always be inquiring of us, helping us shape our report to the public. The media will always be there to help us get our information the maximum audience.
However – we do have a golden opportunity with the ability to get information straight to the public. The way the public seeks information is changing – social media is becoming an ever-increasing part. We can provide not only information, but safety tips and resource numbers to our public audience. The media may choose to run or not run with a story, but with structured, homogenous community alerts in parallel with our press releases, we can ensure that our unfiltered content can reach a broader audience.

“Getting in front of the story” and being “transparent” are big priorities in our high-liability business. Timely community alerts sent in parallel to the media will feed them enough information to at least show that our agency is being "up front" and setting boundaries as to what is confidential pending investigation.

Our Mission:
* Provide credible, direct, and unfiltered timely information
* Brand agency and build trust – Write our own story
* Engage the next generation of neighborhood safety partners – Neighborhood Watch 2.0
* Expand our education and prevention capacity
     * Safety Tips
     * SMPD and External Resource Information
     * Prepare a strategy for handling two-way communications
* Use social media to engage the public as an active safety partner and help us to stop and solve crime!
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    About This Blog

    So you have found, or perhaps stumbled upon, The Social Media Beat, the blog for the IACP Center for Social Media Web site. The Social Media Beat is about three things: social media, law enforcement, and perspective. Here you will find a fresh outlook on the issues that are affecting law enforcement agencies and their personnel when it comes to social media.

    Social media is taking the world by storm. Social networks, blogs, photo and video sharing sites, and virtual communities are changing the way people live, work, and play. These tools present unique opportunities as well as challenges to the law enforcement community.  The Social Media Beat brings together a team of bloggers who will speak directly to you about hot topics and current issues.

    Bloggers include IACP staff and practitioners in the field who can provide a unique front-line perspective. Our team cares about social media and wants to ensure that law enforcement across the country are knowledgeable and well-equipped to incorporate this technology.

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    Dionne Waugh

    Dionne Waugh is the Digital Communications Manager for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, which is the largest, full-service sheriff’s office in the state of Colorado. Prior to that, she spent more than six years creating and leading the Richmond, Virginia, Police Department’s social media efforts, which led to international acclaim and recognition.

    She has spoken about law enforcement and social media at more than a dozen conferences across the country in addition to four IACP annual conferences. Waugh is a former newspaper reporter who wrote about crime, police, and the court system for several years. That experience and an ingrained curiosity for what makes people tick has fueled her desire to improve communication between people. Follow Dionne on Twitter @JeffCoSheriffCo.

    IACP Center for Social Media

    IACP's Center for Social Media serves as a clearinghouse of information and no-cost resources to help law enforcement personnel to develop or enhance their agency's use of social media and integrate Web 2.0 tools into agency operations. The Center is funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

    Leon Robertson

    Officer Leon Robertson is the Social Media Coordinator for the Hampton Police Division. Robertson has developed internationally recognized public safety messages, including the Jingle Bells “Holiday Safety Remix” in December 2013. He has extensive experience in graphic design, video & audio production, and managing various social media platforms. You can follow Officer Robertson’s efforts with the Hampton Police Division on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

    Tracy Phillips

    Tracy is a Senior Project Specialist with the IACP. She is responsible for managing the day-to-day operation of the Web site and coordinating the site's social networking plan. In addition, Ms. Phillips provides writing, editorial, and technical assistance on a variety of association projects and activities, including police management studies, job analyses, executives searches, federal grants, and various research projects and proposals. She has more than 10 years of experience in state and local government, including work as a management analyst, performance auditor, and crime analyst. Ms. Phillips holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Georgia and a bachelor's from Clemson University.

    Want to hear more from Tracy Phillips? Follow her and the Discover Policing team on TwitterFacebook, and on the Inside Discover Policing blog. You can also network with other police recruitment professionals in the Law Enforcement Recruitment LinkedIn group.

    Zach Perron

    Lieutenant Zach Perron is the public affairs manager for the Palo Alto (CA) Police Department. Zach was a 2014 visiting fellow at the IACP in the Center for Social Media. He serves on the steering committee for the Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group (BALESMG), and is a member of the US. Department of Homeland Security's Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG). He holds a bachelor's degree in American Studies from Stanford University and is now pursuing a graduate education at the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, California.  You can follow him on Twitter: @zpPAPD.

    Dave Norris

    Sergeant Dave Norris is a 21 year veteran of the City of San Mateo Police Department. He has worked in a number of positions including Juvenile Detective, Field Training Officer, Narcotics Detective, and Patrol Supervisor. Dave is currently assigned to Community and Media Relations and oversees day-to-day functions that involve the relationship between the police, the community, and the media. Dave is dedicated to the increase of community engagement through the use of social media. Under his management, San Mateo PD's direct subscribers to community alerts and public safety messaging has grown from several hundred to over 22,000.

    Chris Hsiung

    Captain Chris Hsiung commands the Field Operations Division at the Mountain View Police Department in California. Through the department Community Action and Information Unit (CAIU), he manages strategy, community engagement, and growth through the police department social media channels. Chris has been serving the Mountain View community for over 19 years and has held a variety of assignments within MVPD. These include detective assignments in Property Crimes, Person Crimes, and High Tech Crimes as well as collateral assignments on SWAT and the Field Evidence Team. He also serves on the planning committee for the Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group (BALESMG). You can follow him on Twitter @chMtnViewPD.

    Lynn Hightower

    Lynn is the Communications Director and Public Information Officer for the Boise Police Department and has served in that role since October, 2003. Lynn also serves at the PIO for the Boise Fire Department. Lynn authors and manages the social media outreach for Boise Police and often acts as media spokesperson. She advises officers from patrol to command staff on media and public communications skills. Lynn joined the Boise Police Department after 17 years as a television reporter, producer, anchor, and news director. Lynn regularly instructs new officers at the Boise Police Academy and has given media and public communications presentations to dozens of federal, state, and local emergency responder agencies. Follow Lynn and Boise Police on Twitter @BoisePD.

    Billy Grogan

    Billy Grogan is the Chief of Police for the Dunwoody Police Department in Georgia. Chief Grogan was hired on December 17, 2008, after serving 28 years with the Marietta, Georgia, Police Department, to start a brand new department. On April 1, 2009, the Dunwoody Police Department began operations with 40 sworn officers and eight civilians providing police services to the 47,000+ residents of the City of Dunwoody. Chief Grogan embraced the use of social media from day one of operations. The Dunwoody Police Department began using Twitter the first day and has added Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Vine to their arsenal since then as effective tools to market their department and engage their community. Chief Grogan has written about the benefits of law enforcements use of social media, participated in several social media focus groups and lectured at the IACP, Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, COPS Conference, and many other venues. Follow Chief Grogan on Twitter @ChiefGrogan and the Dunwoody Police Department @DunwoodyPolice.

    Mark Economou

    Mark Economou is the Public Information Officer for the Boca Raton Police Department in Boca Raton, Florida. His media and public relations background spans nearly 20 years. Spending nearly 15 years in radio and television news, Economou held many positions from assignment editor, reporter, anchor, and executive editor. After that, he served as the Director of Media Relations for Cote & D'Ambrosio, a Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising firm in Wickford, RI. He then served as head of Media Relations for Citizens Bank of Rhode Island, the 9th largest bank in the United States. Follow Mark on Twitter @BocaPolice.

    Frank Domizio

    Corporal Frank Domizio has been with the Philadelphia Police Department since 1997. He is currently assigned to the FBI’s Regional Computer Forensics Lab as a Forensic Examiner. Previously he was assigned to the Department's Office of Media Relations and Public Affairs where he was the Social and Digital Media Manager. Frank has spoke at several industry conferences and major universities on the topics of social media and content strategy.

    Tim Burrows

    Tim Burrows was a sworn police officer for 25 years with experience in front line operations, primary response, traffic, detective operations, and supervision. He has training in a broad spectrum of policing responsibilities including IMS, Emergency Management, computer assisted technology investigations, leadership, community policing, and crisis communications. Tim left policing but has remained involved through consulting with law enforcement on the advancement of communications and social media. Tim runs #CopChat on Wednesday nights at 9pm ET, to allow police and community members to connect and break down barriers. To learn more about him you can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook or click here to contact him

    Guest Blogger

    The Social Media Beat periodically features guest bloggers who share their perspective on the topic of social media and law enforcement. These individuals are law enforcement professionals; sworn and civilian personnel from agencies of all types and sizes throughout the world. If you are interested in guest blogging, please send your request to All bloggers must be affiliated with a law enforcement agency or educational institution. We cannot accept blog entries from vendors or others working in a for-profit capacity.

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