The Law Enforcement Social Media Blog

The authoritative resource for news and information about law enforcement social media. From Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Nixle, we discuss social media and its use as the ultimate community policing tool.

Police Departments Should Be Interacting On Social Media

Police Departments Should Be Interacting On Social Media

Publishing information, photos and videos simply because you want to say you have a social media program, is not going to help you create a great online presence.

In fact, if all you do is “push” content out with no interaction with the community, you might as well not put it out at all. Remember, law enforcement's use of social media is to bring them closer with their communities, which means it's a two-way dialogue. 

In order for your presence to be known on social media, and your content actually viewed, read and discussed, you have to interact with your audience. Social media is not a cold, dark place where law enforcement maintains a reserved, stand-off type demeanor.

You’ve probably heard the term engagement used several times when learning or reading about social media. Think about that word for a second. When we have a close and intimate relationship with someone, we often cultivate it over time so that it leads us to becoming engaged. The same thing holds true for law enforcement social media. We need to engage with our community, so we can form those close relationships with those who matter the most to us - our community.

Police departments who engage their communities through social media, are the ones who stand above the crowd. These departments are the ones who talk with their community, as opposed to talking at their community. No one has ever fostered a great relationship with someone who does not interact with them, but only speaks to them.

Listening Can Lead To Engagement

So how does this engagement thing work? When you publish on social media, you're essentially laying the foundation for what you hope will be great conversation. You will also find that usually your strongest followers will actually be the ones who get the conversation going, by commenting, sharing and liking your content. This is your opportunity to start fostering that long term relationship, by interacting or engaging with them.

Don’t try to control or dictate the conversation. Allow it to flow. You want to be interested in the discussion and need to hear the feedback from the community. You have to be committed and believe in the growth of your network of followers. This will lead to the formation of relationships with them, which is what you’re going for. As others see (or listen) to this occur, they too will become inspired to follow and engage with you on social media.

Why We Have Social Media in Law Enforcement

When you really sit back and think about the purpose of social media in the law enforcement profession, we can see the obvious reasons. Reasons like the capabilities to reach our community with important messages, or to cultivate tips and leads on crimes. However, it’s far deeper than that, and requires we go back to the roots of why all things are created; To improve something or solve a problem.

This is the real reason we have social media in law enforcement. We want to improve our relationship with our community, and we want to solve the communication gap between the cops and everyone else. In doing so, we bring together those two entities, to form one community. Isn’t that what we’re ultimately striving for?

Will Your Community Want To Engage?

Think about the culture of your department. Is it one in which your officers rarely interact with the community? Do officers have military style “high-and-tight” haircuts? Do they never smile for fear of showing emotion? Do they not shake hands because of the potential someone is going to attack them? If this is the case, then you surely are going to have to work at getting your community to feel comfortable enough to interact with you online.  This means you're going to have to engage them in the online conversation you are about to start developing on your social media accounts.

What you’re probably thinking about now is the person on social media who doesn’t give a darn who you are, and they will comment about your department, most likely negatively, at a moments notice. I guess you could call that engagement, but that’s for a whole separate article.

Once you show your community you are there for them, and truly have a genuine interest in what affects them as community members, then your community will flock to your presence online. Thus, the engagement begins for your department and the community.

How Do You Begin?

You begin by simply being human. What do I mean by this?

Let’s say you were standing in line getting your coffee before hitting the beat. A man approaches you and says, “I just want to thank you for what you do for our community. I really appreciate what you do.” He goes to shake your hand, but you simply turn around and walk away.

In reality, any decent, normal thinking human being is going to shake the gentleman’s hand and say, “Thank you.” So why, if someone gave you a compliment online, would you not acknowledge that compliment? Kind of silly, isn’t it?

Of course, this also means you have to acknowledge and respond to criticism and negative comments as well. But then again, don’t you also have to do that in person, when someone confronts you? Isn’t it your duty to represent your agency in the best possible light, and respond professionally in the face of “scorn or ridicule?”

So go ahead and post some content on your social media page. If you haven’t been engaging your community, then you might need to spark the conversation. Try adding a question into the post. This might pull audience members into the conversation. When you respond, be energetic and enthusiastic about the topic. Trust me, people will feel it in your words.

Good luck and feel free to comment here on your experience with engaging the community. If you have questions, you can help us kick start our forum by asking them over there!