I would call it a labor of love when it comes to Richmond Police
’s social media sites. Why? Because it’s a personal interest of mine that I love being able to use to the department’s advantage and to better inform our community.
Thankfully, I don’t do it alone. The duties of updating and monitoring our Facebook and Twitter pages are shared among my three talented colleagues in the Public Affairs Unit.
Our unit has found the best way to handle our social media sites is that I usually take the lead because it’s one of the things I most enjoy doing. I use social media constantly in my personal life and it just made sense. However, everyone else in our unit knows how to post items online and follows the same protocol I do when posting or responding to posts.
Generally, I post 90 percent of the items on our social media sites. It’s all approved by my supervisor and, when it’s something unusual or more serious, it’s approved by our chief or member of the command staff.
I also monitor the sites as often as I can because I like being on social media and my new personal cell phone allows me to monitor both my own personal sites and the department’s pretty easily. Facebook has also made it easier to monitor via other channels, such as e-mail and text, by allowing you to sign up to receive post notifications via those channels.
As far as how much time it takes, I’d say it takes as much time as you invest in it. The more we began to post online, the more responses we got. Citizens saw our quick responses and how much time we spent online. Therefore, the more time we had to focus on our online presence, the more time it takes to monitor. Honestly, social media sites are the first thing I look at in the morning and one of the last things at night. But I enjoy it. I like to know what’s going on in the world; keep my bosses in the loop; and facilitate good communication/interaction between my agency and my community.
I think this is a key aspect for any agency wanting to use social media. You need someone who enjoys it; can keep up with the changing technology; and is informed about their agency. Even though I’m a civilian, I know who to go to when there’s a question to which I don’t know the answer.
We initially chose to use Facebook because it was the fastest growing social network to reach our diverse audience. It also allowed us the ability to post info, events, photos, and videos fairly easily. Once we saw how successful it was with our community, we then started using Twitter and YouTube.
During the off hours, including weekends and holidays, I again primarily monitor the sites to respond to posts and other comments. However, when other Public Affairs Unit members are on call, it’s their responsibility to post news releases to those sites and respond to comments as well.
Overall, it’s really just a matter of finding an employee who’s interested in doing the work; willing to try and keep up with the technology; and knows how to balance the community and agency needs.