Community Reach & Engagement via Police Facebook Pages

This is the fourth 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.

Engagement and Reach

So far we have looked at what users think and how they respond to content on police Facebook pages, but why do forces use Facebook?

The first question asked on the survey of police communications professionals’ survey was designed to establish what the force aimed to achieve via the use of the platform. As we can see, overwhelmingly, they indicated to engage with the community.

Police Aims for Facebook Pages GRAPH

Therefore, we must be to understand if police Facebook pages are interactive.

Forces view pages and interactive GRAPHPublics not view pages as interactive GRAPH

Whilst forces overwhelmingly believe there pages are interactive, the public is less convinced. Whilst the gap between the view of the communicators and the fans looks wide forces should take some comfort that overall the number saying ‘no’ is low. This is something that forces can address as it’s likely that a little more effort will turn some of those who responded ‘not sure’ to ‘yes’.

When reviewing the responses to similar questions from both police professionals and users side-by-side, it becomes apparent that the police professionals have a stronger conviction about the effect the page has than the publics.

The biggest difference between the police and publics is on the question, which is closest to the core view of this paper. The proportion of police professionals who believe the page feels the community feel safer is over 90%. However, less than 50% of the publics agree.

It’s a similar result with the statement about if the page reassure the community that the police understand what matters to the public, with over a 30% difference in the responses.

Interactive Page Feedback GRAPHLess interactive page GRAPH

To examine this further I reviewed a number of the pages of forces to identify a force that regularly replies or likes users comments against a force page that did not. The most important finding was in the results from the user survey question about interactivity.

The graphs above show that a greater proportion of fans of the page that regularly responds see their local force page as interactive compared to the portion of fans of the that tends to post only (broadcast) to the page.

We should anticipate that the tone used by police would relate to how interactive they truly are. Users are more likely to describe the page as interactive if the tone used is less formal and more conversational.

Unfortunately, Insights data does not provide an indication about the levels of conversation each force engages with users on posts. Forces, which engage within the ‘thread of a post’, appear to have more comments and shares per post. This of course generates a larger reach.

Reach versus likes

This chart shows is that a page can have significantly greater reach than another page with similar or even greater Likes v Reach GRAPHnumbers of fans. This and the previous data analysis indicate that a key factor is the content, some posts are better at provoking action than others. It is likely that if the same data gathering exercise should take place over a different period each force would expect different results based on the content.

As I previously established, much of the content posted is based on operational issues, which is often unpredictable. However, forces that regularly provide highly-engaging content should maintain greater consistency.

Next week I will post the final in this series when I look at some of the challenges facing police using Facebook.

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