Most police departments are searching for ways to improve their relationship with their community. Citizen Police Academies, Ride-Alongs and crime prevention programs are all designed to improve engagement and build a more positive relationship with the community. Unfortunately, only a small portion of the population will ever take the time to participate in one of these programs. In addition, most departments only offer these programs on a limited basis due to staffing concerns.
Fortunately, there is another avenue to take, which can greatly supplement these in-person efforts. Social media for law enforcement provides an exceptional opportunity to exponentially increase the department’s community engagement while not overextending your staff.
Of course to increase your community engagement using social media, you have to understand the best tactics to deploy otherwise you might just waste your time. Here are a few suggestions to consider.
1. Use Humor
If you use appropriate humor and the right amount, your engagement with your community is sure to soar. However, you must remember to never joke or use humor about a serious subject. That is a taboo. Instead, use humor that is not directed at an identifiable person. Also, it is effective when the humor you use actually makes a point.
2. Post Information About Animals
If your department has been using social media for even a short period of time, then you know how people respond to posts about animals. They just can’t get enough of these posts. They will share them, like them and comment on them. It doesn’t even matter what type of animal you are talking about; domesticated or wild.
One of the most popular posts is for a lost dog. I guarantee you that post will be a hit. Ask for the post to be shared and your engagement will rise exponentially. Update the post if there is new information and be sure and edit the original post on Facebook if the dog is located so everyone who commented will see the update.
3. Use Officer Observations
There is something to be said about posts made from the point of view of a police officer. Those types of posts attract attention and comments. Recently, a Sergeant with the Dunwoody Police Department shared his feelings after a citizen approached him and thanked him for his service. This post received a lot of positive comments and community engagement.
4. Provide Neighborhood Information
In general, citizens are very interested in what is going on in their particular neighborhood. They want to be educated so they can keep their family safe. They realize that knowledge is power and the more knowledge they have, the safer they will be. An example would be a post about neighborhood speeding and what the department is doing about it or providing information about how citizens can help.
5. Ask Questions
If you want to increase the engagement with your community, ask questions. People love to share their opinion. Unfortunately, they may not always share it with you. Instead, they will share it with their friends. It is easy to turn that around by asking questions. There is something compelling about asking citizens in your community to provide their opinion. Until that practice becomes commonplace, members of the community are usually pleasantly surprised.
If you do ask a question, be prepared to respond to the answers and provide any additional information as requested.
If your goal is to increase your engagement with your community, and it should be, then simply try these five techniques and I am confident the interaction you have with your community will soar.
As a side note, if you post something that you want your community to share, ask them to share it or retweet it or otherwise pass it along. In many cases, they will do just that!