This is the third 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.
Credible trusted source
So far I have discussed the demographics of Facebook fans and the types of content the users want from their police service. Now we need to understand what the users think about the police page.
In the users’ survey I asked whom they turn to for information about incidents and whom do they trust. The graphs, below, clearly show two advantages the police have with their Facebook pages. Firstly, the police page is the most likely place publics will seek information, and secondly that the information on the police page is the most trusted.
AND THEY TRUST US !
Of course we have to recognise the in-built bias in relation to these questions in particular. As the survey was completed by Facebook users only, we should expect a strong positive basis in favour of Facebook as a trusted source. However, data from the original Ipsos-MORI ‘Closing the Gap’ survey had similar results without a bias.
Tone and creditability
The way posts are created can have a significant effect on how the audience respond to the messages. A study published in late 2012 by a group called Composite reported by BBC News (2013) stated: “Social media also enables the police to display a more ‘human side’ because of the more informal tone adopted in networks, like Twitter and Facebook. “Social media not only calls for a different tone, it also allows police officers to talk about positive news, emotions, police culture and experiences of daily life. “As a result the public describes and welcomes the police as a human organisation that can be trusted.
“As our analysis of the UK riots in the summer of 2011 clearly indicates, during times of crises police forces highly benefit from established connections and trained practices on social media.
“The voice of the police on social media receives a high level of trust that supersedes bogus information distributed online”.
At the core of the police approach to social media is the need to ensure the highest standards of professionalism and to be open, engaged, creditable, and trusted. It is 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.
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. What is important is that we say something in a timely way. It is Ok to explain that we are looking into something and explain that you are checking the facts as long as you get back quickly with at least something.