The Social Media Beat

Professionalization of the Social Media Manager Role

Professionalization of the Social Media Manager Role

By: Chris Hsiung
Date: Friday, April 04, 2014

Chris Hsiung

Captain Chris Hsiung commands the Field Operations Division at the Mountain View Police Department in California. You can follow him on Twitter @chMtnViewPD.

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When the time comes for your agency to fill a social media collateral assignment or position, what attributes, skill sets, or experiences are important to look for? Is it better to have an outside candidate with real world social media experience or is it better to train someone up from within your organization? Granted, the vast majority of police departments across this country are still recovering from the belt-tightening recession era and very few, if any, have the luxury of creating or dedicating positions solely to social media. However, I truly believe the role of a social media coordinator in police departments will become mainstream in the coming years. Why?

Think about all of the promises social media has to offer: increased community engagement, organizational transparency, or controlling the message during crisis (to name a few). These are a perfect complement to community policing philosophy and have made social media an indispensable part of policing in the modern era. In the mid 80’s cops broke down barriers by proactively getting out of their cars and making positive partnerships with the community. Today, social media breaks down even more barriers, allowing us to instantly reach vast numbers of civic, business, and community members through their Internet connected devices. The secret sauce, if you will, is to overlay and integrate social media with your department's community policing centric mission and goals. When social media is only used to broadcast press releases or announcements, it's basically a glorified fax machine. On the other hand, when integrated with your department goals, it becomes a powerful force multiplier in your day-to-day efforts; solving crimes, engaging the community, and showcasing the professionalism of your agency. Your social media coordinator sits in this important driver's seat and must be adept at the technical side of social media and also have intimate knowledge of your department culture, operations, and mission.

Be wary of people who describe themselves as social media "ninjas, experts, or gurus" where the only advice or strategy they offer is for you to "get on Facebook or Twitter" and make sure to post something ever few days. The fact of the matter is, social media is a multidimensional ecosystem. It’s complex and constantly changing and you need someone savvy enough to navigate your department through it. Granted, knowing the basics of how to post or tweet is a must. However, the person(s) you select to take your agency's social media to the next level needs to know nuances of social media strategy which will grab the attention of your followers and skyrocket your interaction with your community. They must also be able to do this through the voice and style familiar to your department and community. After all, social media is an extension of your department vision and goals.

A few key attributes:

Technical skills: Knowledge of major social media tools and channels and the wisdom to know which is best for your organization to use. Knowing how to access stats and analytics from your social channels and interpret them is also a must.

Tactical skills: Competent to develop strategy to know when and how much to use social channels and when to invest in a new channel. Also, confident enough to change course on strategy when the current one isn’t working.
 
Trust: The person you select to run your social media speaks for the department and the office of the chief. During crisis situations, there is no time to approve messages, tweets, and posts up the chain of command. Their barometer for humor, voice, and tone must match that of the chief and department.

Communication skills: This role is the voice of your organization. How he/she says something on social media is just as important as what is said. Proficiency at handling good public feedback and bad is a must.

The task can be daunting but individuals with these skill sets are likely in your community and within your department. There are numerous pros and cons to training from within or hiring from outside (perhaps for another blog post someday). In the end, what’s important is the right balance of skills: technical, tactical, trust, and communication.
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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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    About the Authors

    Dionne Waugh

    Dionne Waugh is the social media guru for the Richmond Police Department. As a member of the Department's Public Affairs Unit since September 2008, she created and developed the agency's successful use of social media and continues to try and find new ways to improve the way Richmond Police communicate online. She has spoken about law enforcement and social media at more than a dozen conferences across the country in addition to the past four IACP annual conferences. Waugh is a former newspaper reporter who wrote about crime, police, and the court system for six 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 @RichmondPolice.

    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 DiscoverPolicing.org 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.

    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.

    Ben Gorban

    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 http://bit.ly/ContactTimBurrows

    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 socialmedia@theiacp.org. 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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