Does your agency deploy social media as a communication tool used by a select few or is it a philosophy that is embraced in your organization from the top down? As a tool, there’s no question social media has become a “game changing” method for reaching our communities. However, the use of social media has far greater potential and dividends in an organization when thought of and instilled as a department philosophy.
When the Mountain View Police Department (CA)
first started actively using social media in the summer of 2012, we viewed it as a tool that had great potential in reaching our tech savvy community. Content management and day-to-day posts were managed by one person but the rest of the department (patrol, detectives, records, and dispatch) continued on, independent of the mission and goals of the social media unit. Fast forward a few months later and the department made the strategic decision to shift to a social media "philosophy" that touched every work unit within the department. Command staff, patrol teams, detective units, administrative staff, dispatchers, and records units were all presented with the overall department social media strategy and how each of their respective work units could contribute to and benefit from social media.
What does this look like? An early "win" for MVPD came in the summer of 2013 when our community was hit with a spike in daytime residential burglaries. Intel suggested burglars posing as solicitors were targeting homes when no one came to the door. Just prior to "going live" with a social media campaign asking the community to report suspicious people in their neighborhoods, dispatchers were asked to immediately broadcast suspicious persons calls, in lieu of pending them for available units, and patrol teams were primed to be ready for residents calling in as a result of the social media blast. Within a day, officers responding to calls from community members successfully apprehended multiple persons responsible for the burglaries. The community helped us catch these criminals and in the end and we thanked them in our blog post on the incident
. However, our social media philosophy didn't stop there. The community responded in kind, leaving numerous comments of gratitude and praise on our Twitter
pages. These comments, in turn, were printed out and posted on our department bulletin board for everyone in the department to see.
Social media is often considered an external component to an organization's communication plan. However, your organization can benefit greatly when social media is harnessed as an internal messaging and communication method as well. In a recent blog post about finding meaning on the job
, an award winning workplace dynamics professor at @Wharton School
, explains that finding "purpose" and "meaning" on the job has consistently ranked as a top priority for workers. Furthermore, "...when we see the direct consequences of our jobs for others, we find greater meaning." And, as Susan Dominus explains in her New York Times article
on Grant, "The greatest untapped source of motivation is a sense of service to others." How does this translate in a police department's social media philosophy? Whether your officers and staff are social media savvy users or not, when they see the community they serve flooding their department social media channels with consistent praise and gratitude, it provides them purpose and meaning for the difficult job they do every day (and counteracts the negative stereotypes common in our industry). We often hear about law enforcement consistently ranking high among trusted institutions in our country but this seems hard to grasp when we're routinely dealing with the public during critical or negative events. Social media has effectively bridged that gap and made it exponentially easier for the supportive public majority to reach out, engage, and thank officers on a daily basis.