I was interested today (Sunday 28 August) to see the Metropolitan Police using a specific Twitter feed for CO11 the public order branch of the force to update people about the events at the Notting Hill Carnival. During the day 20 updates were posted by @CO11MetPolice which hadn’t been used since 8 August. When the post on that day said:
The main Metropolitan Police Twitter feed is @metpoliceuk and that said nothing about the Notting Hill Carnival. Instead, it provides a series of updates about the arrests, charges and operations carried out by the force. I wonder whether having two Twitter feeds is causing confusion for people in London who are looking for policing updates?
What surprises me by looking at the Twitter feed is that there is no attempt to start a conversation with the followers, despite the fact that there are regular mentions made by their communities.
It is not an approach to social media that I recommend as the key for me is to ensure that there is an engagement with local people and Twitter helps to start a conversation which you hope will last for some months and years. I noticed that West Midlands Police on Twitter as @wmpolice do take time to reply to people who have expressed an opinion or asked a question. I couldn’t check all the UK police Twitter feeds but one trend emerges.
There seems to be a split between police forces between those that use Twitter just to broadcast what they are doing, and those that try to use it to start conversations. When Greater Manchester Police started using Twitter it was as a way of broadcasting information. However, it quickly became evident that was not using it to full effect and over months the power of social networks emerged. They are an incredibly powerful way of connecting with people and for police officers with members of the communities they serve.
In the police use of social media we are travelling on a road, some people are further along it than others but hopefully we are all heading in the right direction. And perhaps, just perhaps, we can give some people a lift to move more quickly towards the destination if they are prepared to accept a helping hand.