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Are You Using The Facebook Instant Reply Feature?

Are You Using The Facebook Instant Reply Feature?

We all know staying on top of those incoming messages on Facebook can sometimes pose a challenge for us here in law enforcement social media. For example, if you are in an organization where monitoring of your department's social media platforms 24 hours a day is not possible, you only have two choices; Ignore the incoming messages and address them the next time a member of your social media team is on duty, or answer the messages on your own time. Either way, both are not ideal for the department, the message sender, and yourself.

Instant Reply To The Rescue

I recently sent a message to the Montana Highway Patrol after they requested access to our Facebook Group. After clicking on the message tab on their Facebook page, the standard message window appeared. I typed my message and sent it off. Within a millisecond, I immediately received the following reply:

"Thank you for your message. If this is an emergency, please contact our Dispatch Center at 855-MHP-3777. We make every effort to respond to messages within one hour, 7 days a week, 7AM-10PM. We look forward to speaking with you shortly. Thank you!"

My first thought was to find out which third party app was completing this automated message. A quick search on the web and I discovered it was a feature recently added by Facebook when they improved their messenger platform.


To configure Instant Reply, visit your department's Facebook page, and click on the Settings tab. From there, click on Messaging.  You'll be redirected to the messaging page, where you can control the following options:

  • Response Time and replies
  • Outside Business Hours replies
  • Instant Replies

For this article, we're going to focus on the last two options. On a personal note, I've only enabled the last one (Instant Replies), and I will explain why below.

Outside Business Hours

(NOTE: Depending on the type of page you have, this option may not be available for you) With this feature, an automated message will be sent when you are "away from the business." For a law enforcement agency, the following should be considered when contemplating using this feature:

  • Law enforcement is typically a 24 hour operation, so having an away time might not be possible
  • If your station is not open to the public at all times, will the times you list that you are open coincide with your social media team's monitoring times?
  • If you list the times you monitor social media, will this cause people to believe those are the hours of your station or department?

You probably can see the problem with this setting in regards to how it relates to law enforcement. Ideally, you would want the away message to be active when the social media team is not available, not when a station is closed, right? 

Instant Replies

This feature is most likely the most ideal feature which can be used by law enforcement. Whenever someone sends you a message for the first time, they'll receive an automated message.

Select "Yes" next to the words "Send Instant Replies to anyone who messages your page." Then click on "Change" to use a custom message for your reply. Once you've done so, click "Save."

Why Use Instant Reply

Ideally, responding to messages should be done in real time by real people. However, most law enforcement agencies do not have a dedicated employee monitoring their social media platforms all hours of the day, everyday. With that, then next best thing is to let the person who sent you a message know you might not respond until a certain time or on the next business day. It's not preferred, but it is better than leaving a message "hanging out there."

Have A Question or Comment?

Share with us how your agency is using this feature, or leave a question or comment below.