It’s been encouraging seeing so many public safety agencies enter the Social Media world. I enjoy reading about some departments promotions, public education events, and important information regarding community safety, but I am becoming glossy eyed and at times, complacent. Information Overload from public safety agencies is becoming a real concern for me, and I think it should be a real concern for communities that are turning to those outlets expecting to get critical information during a disaster or high profile incident.
Informational posts are fine, but when every traffic accident that occurs in a metropolitan location is posted to Twitter or Facebook, how does the follower differentiate between those FYI’s and priority incidents. Yes, Twitter has launched Twitter Alerts, but agencies need a certain level of account security and accountability to launch this feature. They also need to educate the public on what they will receive when an alert is sent.
Informational posts may be needed in some context. Transportation may be improved by notifying the masses that XY street is closed due to a 3 vehicle accident, but at what cost is this information provided. If the follower never sees the tweet about an active shooter at XZ School, they miss a critical piece of information that may be directed related to their life.
Just a few of my opinions (and they are mine, everyone has them) on using the big 3 Social Media Outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) in public safety.
1. Do not cross post. Each platform is suited for certain information or content format. Set a priority for each platform and stick to it as much as possible. Disconnect the automatic features that allow posting to all three sites and manage them manually. This feature is great for businesses selling products, but in public safety, it’s about information, not selling.
2. Focus on how to best serve the community with a priority on high level incidents, immediate safety over convenience, and avoiding information overload.
3. Taylor your content to your community and your agency for the most part. It’s great to share others content if it’s relevant, but try to build content that is targeted to your community in order to make it interesting to them.
4. Above all, reinforce to your followers that Social Media is not an emergency reporting system. Most sites are not monitored 24/7 and sometimes they are managed by administrative personnel that have no emergency incident training.
Social Media is a tool, just like your Computer Aided Dispatch console, but it can’t really act as an extension of that console, nor should it.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.