This is the second of a series of posts following a detailed research project looking at how British police use Facebook pages – see more about this and links to other posts here.
Content driven engagement
My last post highlighted that British police Facebook pages generally attract a wide-spread of demographics but they have a strong following from women between 25 and 45. As with any general PR activity the aim of a police Facebook post can be varied it was important to see how the audience responded to the different types of content.
The posts by police on their Facebook pages could be to raise awareness, influence opinion, or provoke action so to see how users perceive them we asked users, what sort of posts would they most likely share, like or comment on.
Reviewing this against the actual page insights data helps communicators to see both the types of post and content that is most likely to generate interest with the users. Of course the users will engage with the posts they are most interested in, i.e. about incidents, missing persons or appeals.
One key finding is that 35.4% of the responses indicated they would not comment on police posts at all. This shows that at least one-third of users of police pages will never interact further than the initial like of the page. This should not be seen as negative as they still receive the message.
It’s important to compare the effectiveness of type of posts using the satisfaction data from Insights. The police communicators’ survey provided a snapshot of how effective forces believe each type of post to be.
The chart summaries the responses from the professionals managing the police pages.
Interestingly, not a single communicator stated that any type of update would not be effective. All respondents saw missing person appeals as the most effective, followed by crime appeals, incident updates and updates with pictures.
The users indicated that they are four times less interested in crime prevention posts than incident updates. However, the police page insights data indicated that crime prevention posts the most likely type of post to be clicked on. The reason for this is that crime prevention posts often include links to further information, where as posts about incidents, or appeals usually carry all the information within the post itself.
When reviewing the types of posts published on police Facebook pages during the Summer of 2013, 49% of them were based on crime appeals or real-time incident updates to support ongoing police activity. Court update or charging decision accounted for 12%. A further 15% offered crime prevention advice. One of the forces in the sample used a direct feed from Twitter to update the page, rather than specific content for the platform.
A further observation was that many posts were direct copies of press releases issued at the same time (some directly posted from the force website via RSS). Only a small proportion had been specific Facebook versions of the press releases.
Based on the insights data we can also gain some statistical indication of the effectiveness of each type of post. There are three numerical insights that are provided by Facebook, which can be used by communications professionals to judge the effectiveness of a post. It is important to see these measures as outputs or outtakes, rather than outcomes.
By comparing all three measures side-by-side there is no direct relationship between numbers of fans reached with the number who choose to comment or share the story with their own followers, by post type. The reality is that if the content is interesting and the force engages with the fans, no matter what ‘catergory’ of story the reach will be better.
Twitter-based posts reach a smaller audience and generate very little further engagement. This page was very much a post and forget approach with no visible interaction between the force and the users.
Fans do appear interested in court or justice outcomes, which did generate high proportions of reach, click-through and shares or comments. This is an area where forces may struggle to engage further because of various legal restrictions. The next charts allow us to compare the performance of each type of post against each of the measures.
The results from the surveys allow us to compare the publics’ and professionals’ viewpoints against the ‘insights’ data discussed previously.
Question 2 of the users’ survey asked fans to indicate the top two updates they are most interested in.
With two-thirds of the responses for ‘updates about incidents happening now’ it’s clear that the public want real-time updates on the pages. Comparing this against the insights data where only 12% of updates were about live incidents.
Crime appeals gained a third of the responses, which compares well with the 37% of appeal content posted during the sample period. Overall, if you review the types of content being posted by the forces that provided data for this sample against the survey result we can see that overall forces are providing the right sort of mix of content to suit the publics’ interests.