At this point in the social media game, most people know that photos of animals are pretty popular. From police agencies’ K-9 units to mounted squads to animal rescues, it’s clear that the people love animal postings.
But a recent Facebook project of ours just blew us away by showing us how MUCH the whole world loves both animal postings AND good police stories when it made two of our posts go viral.
That project (and Facebook photo album) was called “RPD Loves Animals.” The main reason we did this project was to showcase how much animals teach us and how those experiences make our officers better people and subsequently better officers.
I think a lot of the times when people hear about police and animals, it involves an officer shooting a dog, but not this time. This time we profiled six officers who have a variety of interesting animals or animal experiences and what it has taught them. Some examples included an officer who takes the time to volunteer at the city animal shelter, an officer who talks about the importance of taking his dog to agility classes as a way to decompress from the challenges of the job, and an officer who rescued two mini donkeys (yes, they are as cute as they sound).
But the one profile that struck a cord and went viral was about Detective Mac Adams. His story about how he and his wonderful wife and kids came to adopt five deaf dogs and his advocacy for deaf dogs and educating the public about pit bulls and the bully breed captured the hearts of nearly two million people around the world!
I know this because the photo of him and his dogs is now our most liked, most commented, most shared, and most viewed post in our five year Facebook history. At last check, the photo had more than 20,000 likes, 22,000 shares, 3,000 comments, and it had been viewed nearly two million times. We had about 9,500 Facebook fans before this post, but gained more than 1,200 new Facebook fans from across the world in less than two weeks! The commenters told us they lived in New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada, and across the United States, and that they were now becoming fans of our page because of the great profiles of our officers and the positive stories we were sharing with them.
We have also received more than 50 private messages commending Detective Adams and his work with deaf dogs, pit bulls and for being a dedicated police officer. The Huffington Post picked up the story and even two weeks after the project was first posted, people are still talking about it! According to our Facebook analytics, even though we have 10,863 fans, more than 100,000 people are “talking” about us. Wow!
The comments were numerous, rained in for nearly two weeks straight and are still coming. They included messages about changing people’s minds overall about police officers, the impression of the Richmond Police Department, and people just being happy to read GOOD news about police for a change. Honestly, it was just a huge overall reminder of the humanity of our officers.
This project was a big success and did exactly what we hoped--it changed the way people think of police officers. One of the best examples of those comments is the one below, and this story that was written about our project.
And on an interesting and related side note, we had a second, unrelated photo go viral as well during this time. This was due in part to our huge and growing new audience, but also because the photo was simply good news. A citizen tweeted us a photo of our one of officers pushing a man in a wheelchair whose battery had died during one cold day last week. His lieutenant sent us some further details, such as the officer pushing the man in his heavy chair for three blocks (no, it would not fit in his cruiser); helping him get on the bus; and then following the bus and pushing the man another two blocks to help get him safely into his home.
We posted this photo and these details to Facebook a few days after the tweet and it blew up with likes, comments, and shares! At last check, it had more than 364,000 views; more than 8,400 likes, more than 500 comments, and 2,100 shares. It also generated positive media stories on all three local TV stations.
I think both of these posts go to show that people are hugely supportive of police officers and they love to hear about all the good things they do. That’s one of the main reasons why police departments need to be on social media – to share all these good deeds and educate the public about what police really do and the great, dedicated public servants that they are.