Hashtags are the holy grail of Twitter. Developed initially by Twitter users to filter conversations, they are now used strategically to build an online community and generate online PR. So how can law enforcement agencies use the hashtag to raise awareness and how do you get it to trend? Well I hope to answer those questions in this blog post.
Don’t forget to follow the #LESM hashtag for all things law enforcement and social media, while I use the hashtag #socialcops in my online writing on the subject.
Five Steps To Hashtag Success
#1 Choose Your Topic
Choose one specific topic for your hashtag. It is likely to be more successful if you narrow your approach. Are there public information campaigns being planned in your agency, is there a new policing by-law coming into force which needs to be publicized, are you recruiting or is your agency planning an event?
Policing Case Study: #BlueLivesMatter is a trending topic hashtag that is owned and promoted by the online community on Twitter. So rather than one agency driving it, it is used extensively by the Twitter community to discuss the issues around policing and community relations. It trended on Twitter following the shooting dead of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri in March. Law enforcement officers, their families and members of the public use the hashtag in their tweets to reinforce the dangers faced by law enforcement officers on a daily basis. Others are using the hashtag to give rise to their views on #BlackLivesMatter and the riots in Ferguson following the shooting dead of Michael Brown six months earlier.
According to BBC News the hashtag had already had an underlying presence on Twitter before the Ferguson shootings.
I did a quick review of the hashtag today (27 September 2015) and analyzed just 100 Tweets and here are the results. It’s clear that the #BlueLivesMatter hashtag which has an emotional appeal – generating both positive and negative tweets – will remain one which trends.
#2 Choose Your Hashtag
Your hashtag should be short, memorable and represent your topic. Be sure to read your hashtag aloud to make sure it doesn’t read something else? Remember the Susan Boyle hashtag fail? Don’t fall victim to such scenarios.
Policing Case Study: Many US Police Departments are using the #tweeetfromthebeat hashtag to keep citizens informed of timely news and updates. It’s proving effective for community relations. As the infographic from RiteTag shows the Sante Fe Police Department are right up there with the use of the hashtag.
© Based on Best hashtags for tweetfromthebeat calculated by
#3 Build Content Around Your Hashtag
With any online activity you will require a content plan to support your campaign. Pre-plan tweets which promote your hashtag, out-reach promotion and educational tweets. It’s a good idea to design a Twitter graphic, which explains how to use your hashtag and perhaps even documenting the results of your hashtag campaign.
Policing Case Study: @gmpolice
Greater Manchester Police hosted a Tweetathon using the hashtag #GMP24 to illustrate the level of 999 calls being received by their agency in one full 24-hour period. The results were remarkable because they live-tweeted each emergency in-bound call.
Speaking to Manchester Evening News, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Jim Battle said, “This will demonstrate that police resources are already incredibly stretched and it shows the particular challenges GMP faces on a day-to-day and hour-to-hour basis."The public will probably want to question how they can manage when the government has identified probably a further 25pc in cuts to resources. It would probably mean the loss of another 500 officers.”The agency produced an infographic in which they categorized the calls into “social work” and “serious crime”.
#4 Community Outreach
Using your existing community to promote your hashtag is a great place to start. Send a DM to your community and give them the exclusive on your new hashtag and how they can get involved. Also send an email to your network inviting them to join your campaign.
Policing Case Study: New Jersey State Police @NJSP
Using the hashtag #ItTakesAVillage New Jersey State Police encourage their local citizens to help solve crime and they also promote this hashtag on Facebook. Here’s an example.
Speaking to CBS Philly news Sgt. Jeffrey Flynn says, “I try to just keep it light, and sometimes I try to do some funny hashtags just to keep people engaged and wanting to come back.”
#5 Twitter Chat
Set up a dedicated Twitter chat – this can be a once off or a regular occurrence. But make sure your Twitter chat has a plan – don’t just show up on Twitter and hope for the best! Don’t forget to add your Twitter chat to this Twitter chat directory provided by Tweetreports.com.
Policing Case Study: #CopChat
A Twitter hashtag is a powerful tool to start conversations and to maintain relationships with your online community. But one thing is for sure, consistency is key. Stick with it. Don’t expect to become a hashtag hero overnight, it requires planning and strategy. Please share your law enforcement hashtag with me and I'll join your Twitter conversation.