Social media is about being social. If you want to build relationships with your community, you must create dialog and help your citizens understand what policing is all about. The end result is a greater working relationship with the citizenry and, with any luck, more support for your agency when you need it. Here are a handful of ways that you can better engage your community using your Facebook page.
1. Post information about wanted suspects: Agencies who are having the best luck with this are sticking to posting only the mugshots of wanted persons for serious crimes. Some who posted mugshots for things like DUI arrests experienced some backlash. Check out the Colorado Springs PD and Evesham Township PD Facebook pages for two good examples.
2. Promote your agency’s events by using Facebook's event tool: Whether it’s an appearance by the K-9 unit or a press conference, any event your agency has should be promoted to your Facebook fans. Wall posts get bumped down quickly. By creating an event, a visitor to your page can quickly view all upcoming and past events at once. You also have the option of sending a notice of the event to some or all of your fans.
3. Run campaigns for agency initiatives: All initiatives for which your agency used to create a paper flier should be promoted on your Facebook page. Whether you’re undertaking a public awareness campaign for distracted driving, recruiting new officers or helping young parents install child safety seats correctly, develop a campaign to create awareness and encourage discussion on Facebook.
4. Encourage dialog with some light-hearted humor: Allowing your audience to see the more human side of the people behind the badge goes a long way for building great community relationships. Check out the Beat the Caption contests posted every Friday by the Houston PD to see a nice example of a large metro agency showing its humorous side.
5. Communicate news of officers doing great work: Not only is this a great way to let the public know you’re getting the job done, it’s also good for officer morale. Have the chief post an atta-boy for a job well-done and watch the kudos fly in from your fans.
And when you’re ready to ratchet it up a notch, try these tips:
1. Stream your press conferences through Facebook with UStream or LiveStream: Streaming your press conferences lets those who are interested hear everything that was said rather than just what the 6 o’clock news chooses to air. Getting it out there live also goes a long way toward displaying transparency and accountability. Don’t get hung up thinking you need a fancy camera. If the room is lit well, an inexpensive Web cam should be fine. Just be sure to test the audio ahead of time.
2. Create a Welcome landing page for when people first visit your site: This requires installing a tab with iFrames and setting the new tab as the default landing page. You can include a Welcome to our Facebook Page video from the chief and/or a written welcome message letting your community know they’ve found you. Once they click “like,” they’ll land on your wall on subsequent visits.
3. Create separately tabbed pages for your wanted persons and Level 3 sex offenders: Call attention to the page from time to time on your wall, but visitors will become trained to check it for latest photos and videos of wanted people and sex offenders.
Want to learn more about social media, the Internet and law enforcement? Attend the SMILE Conference, which will be hosted by the Dallas Police Department, Sept. 28-30. One full day will be spent on public order, social activism and the changing relationship with traditional media. To learn more or to register, click here.