6 Ways for Law Enforcement to Succeed on Social Media

April 21, 2016 12:00 pm PST | Public Safety

Engage Your Citizens, Humanize Your Work, and Influence Media Coverage

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the International Association of Chiefs of Police event for PIOs (public information officers) in Kansas City, Mo., as a guest of our partner, Motorola Solutions, who sponsored the event. The event brought together local, county, state, and federal law enforcement agency PIOs from across the US and provided training and peer networking opportunities. 

PIOs are on the front lines of publicly representing the good work of their agencies every day, whether it is informing the public of developing events, keeping them updated on current high-profile investigations, or providing a view into the many unseen activities in which their officers regularly engage.

Watch our webinar on the Open Policing Movement.

Throughout the two and a half day event, multiple speakers talked about how to leverage social media to better inform and engage citizens and media alike. Here are six social media takeaways for law enforcement agencies:

1. Be Real

Don’t make citizens feel like they’re talking to a “brand.” Let your voice be personal. Look for moments when you’ve let your guard down and capture real day-in-the-life moments. Yes, it’s acceptable to share your sense of humor, and it’s also good to show emotion during tragic circumstances.

springfield pd

2. Be Relevant

If there’s a big national or local event getting attention, why not take advantage of it?


3. Be Timely

Post and respond at the speed of social, particularly when managing real-time developments.


4. Be Engaging

Respond promptly to inquiries and tips. If you can’t provide the requested information, politely acknowledge the request and let them know you can’t share the information at this time or point them in the right direction to get what they need.


5. Be Proactive

News moves at the speed of social media. During a crisis or a high-profile event, media will look anywhere they can for information. If a PIO isn’t talking, journalists will find others who are — whether they have the full, accurate story or just want their 15 minutes of fame. Once misinformation gets out online, it is very difficult to stop, so be as proactive as possible to ensure that the public has the most accurate and meaningful information possible. Be sure to reference where official information can be found, particularly for newsworthy or breaking events:


6. Be Inclusive

Don’t limit your social media presence to your official agency account. Get your officers involved. An easy way to do this is with specific campaigns, such as NYPD’s “Tweet Along Tuesdays” or #NYPDBluegoesPink campaign to raise breast cancer awareness. Then your official account(s) can retweet the best of the best!


Want Even More?

Several PIOs shared these additional tips:

  • Verify your agency on Twitter and Facebook so that unofficial sources can not pose as your agency.
  • Don’t prematurely release information that should be coming from another agency or jurisdiction. It is better to let them release the information first. Then, you can retweet/share as appropriate.
  • Take two photos of every officer: one smiling and one serious. You’ll want the option for both photos depending on the context in which you’re using the image.
  • Paying to boost posts or tweets may increase your views on specific posts. However, be aware that these boosted posts will show up on Facebook as “sponsored” and on Twitter as “promoted” so it may also raise questions on why your agency is spending money on advertising.
  • For more in-depth information on how social media use by law enforcement can assist in preventing and solving crimes, strengthening police-community relations, and enhancing services, the IACP has launched the Center for Social Media.

Most importantly, post a variety of content to keep your audience interested and following.

Special thanks to the IACP mid-year PIO event presenters, including @kcpolice, @yaelbt, @trooperbenkhp, @troopercandicekhp, @sgtpetesimpson, and @dionnew.

Previous Article
Data as a Service
World Immunization Week: Closing the Gap with Open Health Data

April 25, 2016