Today’s post is the ninth in a series of blog posts highlighting IACP 2013 social media workshops. This post is about the Social Media 2.0: Improving Your Agency’s Brand, Online Persona, and Engagement with Your Community session on Sunday, October 20.
Lieutenant Zach Perron from the Palo Alto Police Department and Lieutenant Chris Hsiung from the Mountain View Police Department work closely together, both in terms of proximity and collaboration, in the heart of the Silicon Valley. “Are you listening?” they ask, “Because conversations in the community will happen with or without you.”
The Philosophy of Social Media
Social media is a “philosophy,” not a tool - closely related to community policing, but certainly not a silver bullet. Chris and Zach implore agencies to integrate social media into their organization’s community engagement philosophy.
Police agencies should take the lessons they have learned in managing voice and tone in community meetings and front of the cameras of conventional media journalists, and apply them to the messaging they are doing through social media. “Consistency in voice,” they said, “is CRITICAL.”
Acknowledging that every agency needs to find their own identity, Zach and Chris provided us with a glimpse into the personalities of Palo Alto and Mountain View Police Departments.
Engaging with the Community
Palo Alto PD is one of the best agencies online at interacting with the tweeting public. They operate in a perfect environment for exploration of online police interaction. Their public in Palo Alto is among the most educated and connected in the nation. @PaloAltoPD’s
• Be professional, yet humorous
• Be human whenever possible
• Be competent and confident
• Be approachable – NOT cop-like
• Don’t abbreviate or use jargon – use complete sentences
o The occasional emoticon (professionally done) is OK
• Communicate immediately, accurately, and with authority
• Use social media to “front load” critical information on hot public safety issues
Zach also impressed the importance of monitoring social media chatter in your city – find out what’s going on in your town, and engage with your community by “mentioning,” “favoriting” and “retweeting” as appropriate.
Palo Alto PD has demonstrated this level of understanding and connection with the community through a series of highly successful virtual ride-alongs. These events have featured various divisions within the department, and have been filled with informative quips and witty interaction with the public through their popular Twitter feed.
Chris followed with a couple of great case studies on public interaction, safety messaging, and strategies on generating followership. The City of Mountain View houses the Shoreline Amphitheatre, a popular concert and event venue, as well as being the hometown of Google and LinkedIn’s headquarters. Chris has done some extensive research on social media communication and generation of followership – from a marketing perspective. Mountain View PD’s philosophy is to look at social media as a venue to community information and engagement, and Chris took what makes some of our biggest national commercial brands successful, and applied it to @MountainViewPD’s
social media output.
Tactical Use of Social Media
MVPD’s case study on the “Beyond Wonderland Concert” at Shoreline Amphitheatre showed the effectiveness of well-placed safety messages in anticipation of an event. Use of Instagram was key, as MVPD recognized it as the main social media platform for the concert-goers and promoters. MVPD used increased followership throughout the event by posting safety reminders, followed by well-placed information on undercover operations and arrests designed to keep rave-crimes like ecstasy sales and use to a minimum.
Creating Efficiencies, Forming Partnerships
Chris also talked about a creative way to create departmental efficiencies through Pinterest. This social media platform is tailor-made for lost-and-found items that help the agency clear out needless clutter in their Property Unit. In a second case study MVPD noticed a local major CIO “checking in” at one of Mountain View’s big-box retailers. A reach-out to the CIO via Twitter not only connected them with a Twitter user with a huge “following” (known as a “digital influencer”), it created a relationship between a local company with potential to be a massive resource and the local police department and its chief.
Creating Agency-Wide Buy-In
Chris and his staff have created a culture of comfort with law enforcement social media (Chris describes this as an “Ecosystem”) that few agencies have been able to duplicate. The social media staff shares successes, and posts some of the officer praise and public feedback on a real bulletin board. This has been an effective approach to maximize interest among the troops. Mountain View also spreads their social media features to include specialty units like K9, SWAT, and Motors – highlighting officers gives them a boost, and helps to reinforce the advantage that social media can provide bringing positive community attention to the department.
Lieutenants Perron and Hsiung jammed an enormous amount of good content into their two-hour presentation. They included an extremely well-received overview of the Bay Area Law Enforcement Social Media Group – a collective of over 50 Bay Area law enforcement agencies sharing training and best practices on social media.
Perron and Hsiung