This is a question many departments fail to ask themselves. What this question is really trying to find out is if your department is adequately engaged on social media. Does your department allow comments? Do you respond to those comments when appropriate? A great percentage of law enforcement agencies report they are actively using social media. However, are they effectively using social media? That is the question. In too many cases, the department sets up a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account, posts occasionally and that is where their interaction ends. If this is how your department uses social media, you are missing out on potentially the most valuable benefit of using social media, which is the relationship you nurture, build upon, and strengthen in your community.
There is no easy formula or guide an agency can follow to make sure they are properly engaged since each department and each community is different. However, there a few simple guidelines that will help.
The first is to allow comments on platforms like Facebook, which allow you to do so. This is the first step in being engaged. It is foundational. If your community is not allowed to comment and voice opinions about your department through your social media channels, they will feel like you do not value their opinion and will voice their opinions elsewhere or simply disengage.
If you allow comments, then you must respond to those questions, comments, and posts so that the individuals who posted the message and all others who see it understand that your agency cares enough about its citizens to take the time to respond when asked a question or when appropriate. An unanswered question on your Facebook page is like a citizen calling a member of your department, leaving a message, and never getting called back.
Lastly, your agency should proactively search the most popular social media channels for posts where your agency is mentioned, either in a positive or negative light, and respond if appropriate. When a message is not directly sent to you, it is a judgment call about whether you should or shouldn’t respond. In most cases, it depends on the content.
If you engage your community through social media, respond to their questions and concerns and do so in a timely fashion, your agency will reap the benefits. Your community on social media will be drawn closer to your department and will become your biggest supporter.