There were a few real Eureka moments for me that happened in the past week. For an organisation that is often risk averse and quite conservative in how it approaches things, they are ‘getting’ social media. On two separate occasions in meetings about operations and activity police officers were asking what we would be doing with Twitter to support the communication.
This is a position that would have been unheard of just 12 months ago when there were many strange looks in a meeting if social media was mentioned. At that point officers, including those at senior levels, would give a certain look as if to say ‘do we have to bother about that, it is a bit of a waste of time’.
So what has changed? Well, it has to be a consistent plan to expose officers and staff to social media and what it can provide. In essence, it started with education so that they felt able to understand enough about the networks. They may not understand it as much as they feel comfortable with talking about local newspapers but they do talk about it.
There has also been a lot of work put in to trying to demonstrate the impact that using social media can have. This means showing how it can support operational policing, and how it can become a useful addition to any communication plan. Demonstrating the impact of communication is always quite a complex thing to do. It has to be a combination of quantifiable numbers and some qualitative data from officers about how it is supporting the development of conversations in communities. The reports from the police community support officers and police officers that are using Twitter in neighbourhoods have been critical to this work.
And of course, we have been able to demonstrate innovation in communication through the use of social media. Everyone remembers the 24-hour ‘Tweetathon’ known as GMP24, but there has also been the use of Twittervotes as part of consultation about the financial challenges faced. There are lots more ideas the team has for the future use of networks and that helps to excite interest.
I had a certain sense of achievement with the issue of social media in communication being raised without prompting from communication professionals. It was the same satisfied feeling that I had when I first spotted the tweeting officers speaking to each other through the social network.
Twitter embedded – there is a huge amount of work still required to identify and explain how Facebook and emerging social networks may be able to support policing activity.