Learn to constantly learn – My first blog

In just a few weeks time I will be speaking at the CIPR social media conference and in a moment of weakness I said yes to writing this blog.  Ladies and Gentleman this is a world first, yes the first time I have put my thoughts to paper (sorry iPad) for such a purpose, so I hope you think it’s worthy of your time reading it and secondly no typos.
I have been asked to speak about social media policy and guidelines, which is great, as you can imagine working in British Policing I have to understand hundreds of policies and procedures. But the amazing thing about social media in policing is that we have had to ensure our policy and guidelines are more flexible than the force is used to.
At the core of our approach to social media is the need to ensure the highest standards of professionalism and be open, engaged, creditable and trusted.  It’s not as easy to be open as we would want to sometimes, as the professional element of the approach means we must protect the integrity of any legal processes and investigations, whilst supporting victims and their families.
Our force mission is to keep our communities safe an reassured, in terms of social media we have to be creditable and trusted. This means ensuring the information we issue is 100% accurate. Not easy during a fast moving incident but absolutely critical.
During my presentation next month I hope to share a little more about how we structure our approach to suit the needs of our communities. I sometimes wonder how many people involved in communication remember to ‘learn to constantly learn.’ This is a strange thing to say but if I would give any advice to those managing social media (or communications in general) for any organisation this would be a key part of it.
It’s easy to say you reached X number of people with social media, but do you have a real  understanding of your audience.  We ask those managing local Twitter accounts to look at the profiles of those who follow them so they can see who they are engaged with. Those officers and staff tell us the vast majority of followers are from the area the account is set up to serve. That’s fantastic – some of our most valuable Twitter accounts have less than 200 followers, but if they are from the area that account serves and they are engaging with the officers, then we judge that as a success.
That’s because we would rather tell 50 people about what we have been doing about a local problem that directly affects them than 150,000 people about something that doesn’t affect (or interest) them. If 5 of those then engage with us then that’s even better.
Well I had better shut up (stop typing) as I might start talking about Facebook or how we used social media to prevent riots last August in Staffordshire or even my favourite subject of integrated communication, but I am sat in my hotel room in Egypt having a week off with no Internet (nearly).

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