Need to get more attention to your department's Facebook page? Improving law enforcement's effectiveness with Facebook might require different thinking. Facebook, cops and controversy; It's a winning combination!
I know what I am about to share with you is going to be very difficult for some to understand, justify, "get," or accept. However, if you sit back and ponder it for a little while, maybe even speak with me over the phone, I think you'll be more than willing to try it.
What Cops Hate
As I type this, I have the scene from Top Gun where the ship's captain, played by James Tolkan, tell's Tom Cruise, " I gotta do something here, I still can't believe it." Law enforcement social media managers are a special breed, and the fact that we have to listen to some of the comments and questions posed to us on social media, and just "roll with it," is our version of doing something we can't believe!
That's part of being a social media manager, though. It's our job to not only enjoy the positives of social media, but we have to deal with the negative side as well.
In every presentation I have done or been part of, as well as meetings with different police departments and administrators, the topic of the controversial, "hater" type comments always seems to come up. As much as we preach the art of "taking the high road," we don't like people bashing us, our departments or our profession.
We all know some of the people making these comments are out to bash, or slam the cops, simply for the fact of doing it. They aren't raising legitimate issues or complaints. They are simply "messin' with the cops."
I have had to do my fair share of taking deep breaths and forcing myself to respect the constitutional rights of free speech these people enjoy.
Embracing And Liking Negativity - It's A Good Thing
You read that right. I'm absolutely okay with someone offering their not-so-desirable comments, within reason, on a post on our Facebook page. In fact, in a crazy sort of way, I welcome it. It's kind of like in Hapkido, when you redirectl your opponent's energy back onto themselves. I like these trolls (A "troll" is a Facebook user who posts for one or both of two reasons - to disrupt or to gain attention; Source: Urban Dictionary) coming to visit.
Trolls may not even channel their comments directly at law enforcement. Many times, they like to visit law enforcement pages just to offer ridiculous opinions or comments on other comments, in an effort to stir up a debate or make someone appear like an idiot. Provided they don't cross certain lines, trolls are helping out law enforcement social media managers in a way never really considered, both on the part of the trolls and law enforcement.
Our Posts Aren't Getting Traction
When you post something on your department's Facebook page, and no one likes or shares or comments on it, what happens? It dies, doesn't it? Your fans probably won't see what you posted, your ego will have been dented a little, and you'll be sitting there wondering what you did wrong.
Don't be so hard on yourself. Your post may not have been seen by all the people you were hoping would see it, due to Facebook's algorithms.
You see, Facebook wants people to see the paid advertisements and the top content circulating among the Facebook world. They aren't going to push your low-rated content over a higher one. In fact, a recent study showed the percentage of your fans who actually see your content has dropped from 12% in October of 2013, to 6% in March of this year.
As a social media manager, you need to dis-associate yourself from the position of a manager for a minute, and put yourself in the shoes of a fan of your page. Ask yourself, "What benefit will this have to my timeline if I post this?" Will it show you as a supporter of the particular issue?
Maybe you want to share it so someone you know who has an interest in the topic can see it as well. For example, by liking or sharing a post about law enforcement officers rescuing a pet, it might help your position with a certain group of your own fans, like pet lovers? I know it sounds funny, but some people are in it for WII-FM, and we're not talking a radio station. We're talking "What's In It For Me."
By sharing or liking it, are you sending a message to the poster that you support their view point or cause?
With this type of thinking, you should be able to craft your posts in such a manner which will give it that little push to get people to share or like it, thus expanding your reach potential. This reach is obtained through engagement, which is exactly what people are doing when they share, like or comment.
People like to use Facebook for controversy. People like to argue on the world's virtual stage, to where no harm (at least not immediate and not physical) will come to them should they voice an opposing viewpoint. And we all know, it is very hard for some people to just "let it go," or keep quiet. For a great many of our society, they also like to sit on the sidelines and watch the fireworks fly.
Trolls To Our Rescue
When trolls come onto your page and spew their banter, hatred or controversy, what do you think they just did for you? First, they commented (Engagement = Up). Their fans, who undoubtedly like to watch them stirring it up online, saw it (Engagement = Up). People will share what the troll just told the cops on Facebook with their friends (Engagement = Up). Now, fellow trolls are bound to hit the "Like" button, to which they can't resist (Engagement = Up). By taking the high road and professionally commenting on their comment, or the community commenting, your engagement goes up some more.
Now take the fact that you know many of your supporters will come to your defense, and will start engaging with the troll. Notice the key word in the previous statement.
What happens to a Facebook page that is getting traffic and seems to have something going on? It's like a fight in the park after school. Everyone starts running towards it to see what's going to happen. In Facebook words, people start coming to your page, and hopefully liking it (Engagement = Up).
Trolls. Helping one Facebook page admin at a time!
Don't Have The Time? No Worries
We all need to stay tuned in to our pages, because we are in a profession which dictates our constant attention to the public. This often leads to wondering whether we should reply to every comment or like on a post. Similar to what we practice in the law enforcement profession, the situation dictates the response.
Law enforcement social media managers often do their jobs as a collateral assignment. With reports, calls for service and other assignments, it can be difficult to respond to every single comment. This is the same for extremely popular Facebook pages which have huge amount of fans and comments.
What I am starting to do is after I make a post, I hang around for 15 to 30 minutes to see what happens, or whenever the first 3 to 5 comments or likes get posted. I will make a comment on a comment or like, to perpetuate the engagement rate.
From there I will sit back and take more of a monitor or observation approach to the post. What will most likely happen is the engagement will continue, with people exchanging comments with each other.
Obviously, I don't allow people to start attacking others with name calling, abusiveness or any criminal behavior. I have our Terms-Of-Service posted on the page, and will enforce them if need be. I'm okay if you have a pretty staunch position or opinion on a matter, and you choose to argue it respectfully. However, there is a line which can't be crossed, and trolls usually know this.
So, when you really look at the issue of negative comments, trolls and controversial posts, try to find the positives. You just might be surprised how well they might work for you!