Social Media Tips for Law Enforcement

This week’s “Thankful Thursday” would like recognize Mountain View Police Department’s Captain Chris Hsiung and Social Media/Public Relations Coordinator Katie Nelson for their innovative guidance and strategies surrounding the use of social media within police departments. Social networking within communities offers positive-impact opportunities as long as the agency’s online presence is done correctly. Here at Humankind Alliance, we recognize that social media has changed modern policing and there is no going back, we must embrace it and use it to the advantage of our communities! Thank you to the Mountain View Police Department for stepping into the issue and offering tangible solutions to improve the lives of many!

Here are 10 tips from the Mountain View Police department on areas that should be avoided when navigating the world of social media.

  1.  Shooting for “Viral”

The goal shouldn’t be to be the next worldwide internet sensation. The message should be to engage, inform and communicate clearly. Departmental posts should be thorough, substantive and well-planned. A well-engaged digital community will hear the message and respond to your needs.

  1. Tweeting/Posting in the First Person

It is critical to remember that you represent the organization and not the individual. The key is to develop an “organizational voice” and that the tone should be consistent.   

  1.  Not Understanding the Nuances of Each Platform

Social media is a “language” and each platform has its own “dialect”. This is critical that you are communicating with an appropriate voice for that platform’s audience. Platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn are used by specific audiences for specific reasons. Don’t risk sounding exactly the same for each platform which will show that you are out of touch, boring or even totally out of place. If you use the right voice, tone and even emojis can spark conversations and strengthen engagement.

  1.  Not Responding to Questions/Comments

Be sure to respond if someone takes the time to leave a comment or ask a question on your platforms. Remember people are watching for your responses so if you stay silent, it will be noticed.

  1. Allowing Online “Customer Service” to Differ From In-Person Interactions With Your Agency.

The quality of “customer service” your front counter staff provides to community members should be the same level of service as your online presence. Empower the staff members who are running the social media channels to have the same decision-making and response authority as the front counter staff.

  1.  Misfiring With Humor

Humor has a time and place on social media. The rule of thumb is if there is the slightest suspicion that the light-hearted comment or “joke” may not sit well with the community, don’t post it.

  1.  Suffering From Social Sybil Syndrome

Ensure that all personnel who have access to posting for the department’s social media accounts know how it should look and feel, particularly when it comes to imagery, video and levels of engagement.

  1.  Forgetting That A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words…..And Video Even More!

If your postings aren’t dynamic, you are not going to attract and retain followers. To keep their attention, it should be eight seconds. Video is six times more likely to be interacted with on a social media platform which includes views, comments, likes and share. Pictures are two times more likely to be engaged versus text alone. Don’t overkill links to outside platforms where information resides, you will risk losing viewership. Make sure your content is engaging and easy to reach, then it will be shared and acted upon.

  1.  Talking Like a Cop

The post should be understandable and delivered in plain language. Using too much hard to understand  police jargon can isolate your followers and lead to a belief that police live in their own world and speak their own language. This can lead to communication and community divisions.

  1.  Just Doing It….But Not Planning For It

Be sure to have a social media policy in place, a sound strategy going forward and have someone responsible in the position who knows the impact of social media.