Next steps for Police Facebook Pages

This is the fifth and final post in this series which following a detailed research project looking at how British police use Facebook pages – see more about this and links to other posts here.

What are the most effective ways to use Facebook to support this and does it help keep communities safe and reassured?

The results from both surveys and the insights data clearly show that the public are most likely to engage about incidents, crime appeals, and missing persons. This engagement and interest provides the force with the valuable opportunity to interact and influence the publics. It provides a direct two-way communications channel with the public, which can be used to provide information, allay fears, and listen to communities needs.

The second part of the question ‘does it help keep communities safe and reassured?’ is covered in the user survey most accurately.

48% of respondents answered gave a positive responds to the statement ‘The local police Facebook page helps me feel safer’ against just 12% who disagreed. The indications are the more forces engage with publics this proportion will increase.

Helps me feel Safer

For members of the public who follow police pages they are the most trust worthy source of information and the source of information they are most likely to turn to when they are affected by an incident.

Is the approach effective?

Generally yes, the approach can be seen as effective, but only if properly resourced and when the approach is about engagement rather than broadcast. Those forces that have invested in their social media presence are seeing greater levels of engagement than those who appear to simply post updates, which do not address the communities’ concerns.

The effective use of Facebook provides an opportunity for British policing to achieve two-way symmetrical communications.

Simply having a presence on the platform is not enough to keep communities safe and reassured. The research into public perceptions of crime by Ipsos-MORI shows that changing public perception to crime and reducing the fear of crime is extremely challenging. Forces need to use the opportunity afforded by Facebook to reach fearful members of the community directly. The evidence shows that the information police provide is likely to be trusted and welcomed by publics.

 The way forward

  • Clear objectives and SMART targets should be developed by communications managers based on the desired outcomes they wish to achieve using Facebook. This should include a strategy to generate growth in followers organically over a period of time
  • Page administrators need to regularly use the Facebook insights data to access the effectiveness of posts to their force’s page/s to understand the effectiveness of different approaches.
  • Police forces need to review the resourcing of the page management to better suit the needs of the communities they serve. This will include the hours of work for the key staff that are skilled and empowered to engage with the publics
  • Resourcing of Facebook and social media should given the same priority as resourcing media enquiries within force PR departments
  • Content should be tailored and designed to help the communities engage with the force allowing them to build greater confidence and directly address communities with accurate and factual information about incidents affecting their communities. Content should primarily be designed to suit a mobile device.

I hope you have found this insight useful. I have already started the work to see how the use of Facebook and Twitter has developed since this work in 2013 and I will share this again in the future. Remember you can find details of the Facebook Case Study on Staffordshire Police on this blog site.

Thanks again

4 replies »

  1. David,

    Thanks for pointing me in the direction of your blog page, really useful info and relevant data which will shape some of my thoughts on the current NHW review. I think it would be worth another discussion before I commit pen to paper and shape the recommendations. Thanks, Neil Smith, Independent Review of Neighbourhood Watch across Staffordshire.

  2. A very belated thank-you for your series of 5 articles about UK police use of Facebook. I have just re-read all the articles and they are indeed essential reading for every police communicator who is responsible for their force’s social media output. I would especially like to thank you for highlighting the final ‘Ways Forward’. It is so important, even in times of austerity, to recognise the importance of social media in police public communications. With such rapid changes measured these days in days and weeks, comms functions should be under constant review to ensure they are collectively offering the best value for the public. It is too easy to continue with ‘comfortable’ working practices which although dominating comms resources, are actually far from effective.

    The biggest challenge then is:

    “Resourcing of Facebook and social media should given the same priority as resourcing media enquiries within force PR departments.”

    I very much look forward to seeing and analysing the results of the follow-up survey.

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