The difference 140 characters can make

The Manchester City homecoming attracted extensive national media coverage last night (Monday 14 May) and was a challenge for policing. Thousands of people came out on the city’s streets to celebrate and the key was for them to be able to do it safely. For the police it was another large scale event that needed positive but low-key policing. 

As with most large scale events, using social media to share latest information and key messages was central to the communication activity. On this occasion Twitter was used to keep people updated as the parade progressed. It provided updates about where vantage points were, the policing operation and whether any arrests were made. But there was one story played out through the 140 characters that attracted a huge amount of interest.

In short it was just about a missing child that police officers had found and were trying to reunite with her father. It simply said “A nine year old girl called Marley is with officers in the police vehicle at front of parade – appeal to parents to contact GMP.”  What it led to was something that could not have been expected. It was extensively re-tweeted and led to @gmpolice trending in Manchester and then in the UK. People were drawn into the personal story and human interest about how the situation was going to be resolved. It ended with the tweet “Marley and dad are now back together – a huge relief!”

So what does that tell us about the use of social media?

For those organisations who are still failing to use social media, they are missing out on a whole range of opportunities to share information and more importantly have a direct conversation with interested individuals. What came across in the tweets was the softer side of the policing last night, an openness and accountability about the policing operation and a direct appeal for people to help to resolve a local issue.

The use of Twitter last night may have had only a short term impact but I believe it will have a longer term impact. It was part of a continued conversation and we know people expect to get that level of information, chat and access when things are happening whatever those events are for businesses. I wonder what it says about an organisation, business or company if they don’t make the most of the opportunities that social networks present.

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One Response to The difference 140 characters can make

  1. David Woods says:

    Reblogged this on thinnerblueline and commented:
    A useful insight into Policing and the use of social media Thanks
    @asbdw

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