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Joanne Sweeney-Burke - Author

I will submit blog posts specifically challenging, supporting and strategizing for law enforcement and social media in the digital age. With more mobile phones than people in the world it is imperative that law enforcement agencies take to the online beat with proficiency and knowledge.

A Law Enforcement Social Media Audit

A Law Enforcement Social Media Audit

Social media allows two-way conversations over multiple platforms. It connects like-minded people and entertains us with news, views and happenings from right across the world. It’s instant, it allows us to follow the lives of others as it happens, it keeps us in touch with the brands and the people that matter to us, the causes we are interested in, and it’s absolutely free!

We now live in an age which I describe as: ‘my life in my pocket’ given the rise in the use of smartphones. We don’t just use our smartphone to make or receive calls, we use it to connect on a many-to-many basis anytime, anywhere and with anyone once we have an Internet connection.

I attended the 2015 Web Summit in Dublin this month and one address struck me more than others and it was in the context of the current migrant crisis in Europe. It was about how smartphone connectivity has changed the world. The speaker told us, “the first two questions migrants ask when they reach land or cross a border are:

  1. what country am I in?
  2. is there a wifi connection?”

The Digital Revolution has changed the way we communicate forever

Did you know that in 2014 there were more mobile devices in the world than people. Yes, 7.7 billion phones versus 7.1 billion people. This is the age of connectivity and the world is becoming smaller because of it.

The sophistication of smartphones and the growth in social networking sites empowers members of the public to connect with like-minded people with shared interests, whether they are innocent or most sinister interests. This is the reality for law enforcement agencies.  We see this starkly in the context of the self-styled Islamic State terrorists. Their war on the web through the sharing of propaganda videos is not only allowing them to spread their ideology but they are actively recruiting as a result of it. 

The social web is a fertile ground for intelligence but it’s the analyses of that publicly available information that is proving to be the biggest challenge for law enforcement agencies. How do you filter vital intelligence from the noise of the Internet?

This open source information is as a direct result of publicly available information posted on social networking sites, blog and other websites. And we are ‘always on’. 79% of smartphone users have their phone on, or near them for all but two hours of their working day.

You are required to police your designated geographic area ensuring public safety, crime investigation, crime prevention, the prosecution of crime and to maintain law and order. It’s a big task and it could be argued that it’s made a whole lot tougher and/or easier with the advent of social media. Tougher, because you must police the beat offline and online and I’m guessing your resources haven’t increased to reflect this, right? Easier because, you now have access to publicly available information which can help you profile and investigate persons of interest, track sentiment around sensitive issues and events and even predict possible criminal activity. So social media has an intrinsic role in law enforcement, whether you care to use it or not.

Before Web 2.0 was born it took law enforcers hours, if not days, to distribute information by means of print or broadcast media. Now you can instantaneously update your citizens in a Facebook status or a Tweet and reach millions of people. Dare I say it again, it’s also free.

Audit Your Law Enforcement Social Media Strategy in 10 Steps

Here is my 10-step guide to auditing your law enforcement agency’s social media strategy.

STEP 1 MANAGEMENT BUY-IN

I’ve carried out primary research into how An Garda Síochána, the national police force in Ireland – use social media. I’ve also undertaken significan desktop research into law enforcement agencies internationally. What I have found is that securing management buy-in is one of the main barriers to implementing or extending social media use in a law enforcement setting. With this in mind, it is imperative that social media enthusiasts or managers show the deliverables and the the return on investment that your agency or department will get from using or expanding your social media activities.

Make sure you present your SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) objectives to senior manangement illustrating how implementing or extending your social media activities will for example:

-        make efficiencies in communication transfer

-        increase public confidence in your agency

-        decrease administrative tasks

-        support and enahnce crime investigation

-        deepen public conversations

-        increase media profiling

Here’s an example of how to set your SMART objectives.

LESM AUDIT STEP 1

STEP 2 SKILLS AND TRAINING

Social media is changing rapidly and it’s hard to keep with Twitter’s algorithm updates or Facebook’s API changes. With this in mind a solid training and education plan should be in place to reflect the onging social media skills gaps in your agency. Here is a training model I have developed specifically for law enforcement agencies.

  • Undertake a social media skills assessment within your agency. Ask the following questions - what skills exist, what training is required, what skills are missing, should we out-source?
  • Identify your social media team. What roles will they each have, what responsibility will they hold, who do they report to?
  • Practical learning should be encouraged within your social media team. They should be active contributors to social networking sites (in keeping your LE social media policy – more on that below) and participating in new social networks as they are launched and as they are updated or improved.
  • Social media monthly team meetings are a must. Reviewing the month gone by and previewing the month ahead will ensure the team is consistent in its strategy and you as a collective will be well positioned to iterate and make changes to strategies not proving effective.
  • Sharing of best practice among your agency and other agencies is also important. Are you communicating and networking with other law enforcement agencies who are active on social media and who have implemented strategies that work? The sharing of best practice within your rank or geographic area and internationally through representative associations is key.
  • Documenting and updating your social media manual. This should be a live document updated in real-time as social media changes take place and the rules and practices change.
  • Annual training scheduled for your social media team is necessary to ensure they can benchmark their knowledge, learn about new platforms and updates to existing ones. It’s a fast-moving industry and so continuing professional development is necessary.
  • A series of eLearning modules should be identified which will feed into the overall training plan. eLearning provides for efficient upskilling and is largely more cost effective for law enforcement agencies on a budget.
  • Learning bootcamps are a great idea. These are simply in-house training camps where all team members come together with an outside facilitator to share knowledge from senior team to junior team members.
  • An annual skills audit should take place at the end of each year and this sets you off once again on your training and upskilling roadmap.

LESM AUDIT STEP2

STEP 3 SOCIAL MEDIA USE POLICY

This has to be one of the most vital documents for a law enforcement agency engaged in social media activities.  A social media use policy informs and directs your strategy, the tone of your social media conversations and how to deal with criticism and offensive behaviour.

All staff involved in any way with social media should read and receive formal training on implementing this policy.  If your agency doesn’t have an in-depth policy to cover the following aspects, you could find yourself in social media hot water. Remember a policy is there to protect the agency, officers and staff and citizens engaging with you on social networkings sites.

Review your agency’s social media use policy for the following elements:

LESM AUDIT STEP3

1. Issue date – is it current, has it been reviewed and updated in the past six months?

2. Accuracy – strict guidelines on pushing out information and the process of auditing and reviewing content before it goes live and the timing of the release of content.

3. Anonymous accounts – are investigating officers allowed to set up and use anonymous social networking accounts and if so what are the processe in place to approve a request and what activities are allowed?

4. Failure to report – Police Scotland monitor activity on their social networking accounts for criminality and offensive commentary which may result in arrests and/or criminal charges. What is the protocol for officers who see such content and what steps should they take once it is noticed? Is there a penalty for officers in failing to report possible incidences of crime?

5. Reputation management – what is the policy in relation to officers and staff using personal social media accounts and is there a thin blue line of their personal activities negatively impacting the reputation of the agency? Maintaining the good name of your law enforcement agency, its staff and its work should be paramount.

6. Skills and knowledge – what level of knowledge, training and skills should staff possess before they are allowed to use agency-sanctioned social networking sites?

7. Sanctions – what sanctions are in place to deal with mis-conduct on social networking sites by officers and/or staff – both in a personal and professional capacity – and are these sanctions tied into your human resource policies and contracts?

8. Monitoring Tools – what listening and monitoring tools are allowed to be used as part of your agency’s social media activities and who has access to them?

9. Confidentiality & integrity – an understanding that all social media activities should be undertaken with the utmost integrity and giving due regard for the confidential nature of the work being done and the scope for error on the social web. 

STEP 4 ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Within your social media team and broader organisation there should be defined roles and responsibilities which are shared. Weekly workplans for each team member should be developed and signed off on which can then be used to evaluate outputs and meeting key performance indicators.

LESM AUDIT STEP4

STEP 5 SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS

It’s very important that your agency decides which social networking sites are right for you giving consideration to:

- Citizens use of particular social networking sites in our country/state;

- Localization social networking sites;

- Specific interests/industries/gangs in your locality;

- Types of content you will have to share;

- Knowledge and skillset of officers/staff; and

- Crime investigation techqniques being used by your agency.

In late 2015 the International Chiefs of Police (IACP) conducted its sixth annual survey on law enforcement’s use of social media. The survey addressed the current state of practice and the issues agencies are facing in regards to social media. The survey was sent electronically to law enforcement executives across the United States. A total of 553 law enforcement agencies, representing 44 states, participated in the survey.

The IACP found that   The most frequently used social media platforms are Facebook (94.2%), Twitter (71.2%), and YouTube (40.0%).

Read the full survey here.

LESM AUDIT STEP5

STEP 6 SOCIAL MEDIA CALENDAR

What will we say on our social netoworking sites? What will interest and engage the public? What should we not say? How should we present content? These are all questions you will have to ask yourself in preparing your content plan. A content plan should be done for the following:

- Per month

- Per campaign

Here’s my template content planner for law enforcement.

 

LESM AUDIT STEP6

STEP 7 SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT

Most law enforcement agencies will be managing more than one social networking account. So with this in mind it’s important to look at possible tools that can help you.

Here’s a useful venn diagram from TrustRadius on how companies choose management and monitoring tools they developed as part of their report on The Buyers Guide for Social Media Management Software.

You can download the report here.

Hootsuite

HootSuite is the most popular social media management tool for a reason. Besides being able to execute campaigns across multiple social networks from one web-based dashboard, you can also manage social media, track conversations, and measure campaign results. HootSuite also offers a custom built-in analytics system and the capability to schedule posts on all platforms.

Tweetdeck

TweetDeck is an app for real-time tracking, organizing and engaging on Twitter. It acts as a dashboard of Twitter, allowing you to manage multiple Twitter accounts and filters Tweets in columns. Unlike twitter.com, columns on TweetDeck update with new Tweets automatically, so no need for additional clicking to read new Tweets.

TweetDeck allows you to keep track of multiple timelines at once, either from different Twitter accounts or with different filters. These timelines show up in columns, which you can filter, change and prioritize. You can also use TweetDeck to tweet, schedule a Tweet for a certain time or send a direct message. Additionally, you can create a list or build and organize a custom timeline on TweetDeck. This is a useful feature for law enforcement agencies with multiple Twitter accounts.

Facebook Scheduler

Facebook allows you to schedule your posts on Facebook Pages. You write your Facebook post as normal, add your content, a video, image or link and then schedule it for a time and date in the future.

You can also add language and location targeting in your scheduled posts, just like you can in your regular posts. Just click on the Public icon and make the necessary adjustments.

Once you have everything set, just click the blue Schedule button. You just need to remember to circle back to your posts later after the scheduled time to watch for follow-up comments! 

Buffer

Buffer is one of the most popular social media message scheduling and sharing applications available. With one easy click you’ll be able to share content and schedule posts via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. Basically, it allows you to stagger content throughout the day so that social media feeds have consistent updates – plus you can schedule ahead of time, which is really handy. And, there’s analytics about engagement and reach of your posts.

STEP 8 MONITORING TOOLS

The Internet is a noisy place, so how do you filter and analyse relevant data? Here are some useful tools you might be using already or might consider using in the future.

SproutSocial

Sprout Social can manage, post, monitor, and analyze multiple social media accounts from one location. For example, you could search for content within its Feedly integration, schedule posts, and reply to messages on Facebook and Twitter. You can also monitor messages across Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn personal profiles all through on streaming inbox. But, that’s not all. Sprout Social also offers analytics so that you can visualize important metrics.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a basic way to discover when a website is posting about you. However, it doesn't capture everything and it certainly doesn't cover social media or most blog sites. Still, it's a good, automated, entry-level way to get some feedback about any kind of search query emailed to you. Sign up at www.google.com/alerts (if you want instant results, mark "as-it-happens" under "how often").

Social Mention

Social Mention provides you with an opportunity to learn about brand mentions and interactions in an easy-to-digest visual format.

Type in the name and click Search to see the links to your mentions. Sort by timeframe or source. Also, find your brand’s strength (how often it’s being discussed), the passion of the posting (how likely someone will repeat the mention), the sentiment (positive to negative) and the reach (measure of influence). Learn the top keywords, users, hashtags and sources as well. 

STEP 9 SOCIAL MEDIA REPORTING

Writing a clear and easy to follow social media report is a skill in itself, however depending on which management and monitoring tools you are using reporting should be built into it.

Here is my template on how you should structure your social media report.

LESM AUDIT STEP9.1

LESM AUDIT STEP9.2

STEP 10 EVALUATION AND ITERATION

You will never have a complete and perfect social media action plan, as the goalposts will constantly be changing – whether it’s the social networking sites that are being updated, the goals in your law enforcement agencyor the policing priorities. So your social media strategy should be a fluid document that allows you to respond to change and to iterate frequently.

Review the 10-point social media strategy checklist in this unit and discuss with your LESM colleagues what you would like to see more robustly implemented in your law enforcement agency and the reasons why.

Good luck with your #LESM audit. I’d love to hear your thoughts on your experiences or any further tips you have to add to mine. So just comment below or tweet me @tweetsbyJSB.

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