Do you ever wonder what makes a good social media manager? Take a look at some social media channels managed by police officers and I think you’ll find that many do an impressive job at being informative, helpful and, yes, entertaining.
Keep reading And you’ll see there’s a good reason why Lieutenant Tim Cotton’s content on the Bangor Police Department’s Facebook page has gone viral with over 327,000 followers.
YouTube is full of heartwarming heroic stories of cops rescuing people and pets. You’ll see quite a few clips of them country line dancing for the “Get Up” Challenge.
On Instagram, the Los Angeles Police Department surprised a little boy who had been hit by a car with a motorized toy car and helmet for his birthday. The D.C. Police Department showed officers dressed up as superheroes, visiting young patients at the Children’s National Hospital.
From what I’ve observed on multiple social media Police accounts, the motto “To Protect and to serve” is their mission statement, too. It’s the backbone of every post.
I suspect if it doesn’t meet that litmus test, it doesn’t get posted. They have the discipline and good judgement not to stray.
How do they excel as social media managers?
They make you feel like you’re a part of their community.
I don’t live in Bangor, Maine (But my grandparents did.) Whenever I log on to the Bangor Police Department’s Facebook page, I feel like I’m welcome there. Lieutenant Tim Cotton has developed such a following that this page attracts tourists, snowbirds, and new residents.
Social media is another form of community policing. — a strategy of developing relationships with members of their community. In business, we call it “marketing” or “social selling.”
They do it right.
Social media is meant to be a two-way form of communication. That’s what separates it from publishing.
When I look at the comments’ section of these police departments’ Facebook pages, I always see a response or acknowledgement of each individual’s comments.
Good social media managers make sure no feels ignored if they took the time to engage.
They instill trust.
People turn to social media for all kinds of reasons. I think their mainly looking for connection and an emotional cookie. They see enough heated debates online and in the news. Now, more than ever, they need a safe place to land. They need to see that someone has their back.
When police officers see disparaging posts or disagreements, they de-escalate them diplomatically and quickly.
I’ve noticed that these social media managers in blue exude trust. They provide regular, thoughtful engagement, so people will return.
They are authentic.
After watching more than a few cop shows over the years, we may all have some pre-conceived notions of what police officers are like and what they do.
It’s nice to see what they’re really like on social media — friendly, amiable, and professional. Some of them are gems.
The Bangor Maine Police Department regularly signs off with “As always, we urge you to keep your hands to yourself, leave other people’s things alone and be kind to one another. Sincerely, part-time page administrator, TC.”
I can’t read that without smiling.
How can you reach your followers in such a genuine way?
They vary their content.
Social media gives police officers a platform to communicate with the public more frequently — not just when it’s an emergency.
They give heads ups. They give high-fives. They give back. They give you a glimpse of what’s happening — at the station and in your community.
How do they vary their content? By acknowledging their fellow officers, new hires, and promotions. By warning people about recent scams, road work and closures for special events. By sharing information and camera footage of crimes they’re trying to solve. By offering gratitude for others’ kind gestures of pot luck meals and pizza deliveries during the pandemic. By chipping in to buy a new bike for the kid they rescued and sent to the hospital the previous week.
Or by showing you what it’s like to ride along with them on their beat. In my town, that may mean catching a dash cam live-streaming a gorgeous pink sunset from the beach. It’s pretty awesome.
Good social media provides a never-ending pipeline of posts that show how an organization shines from the inside out.
They’re good story tellers.
Some crimes never get covered in the news. And the summaries in the crime log of your local paper doesn’t delve into much detail.
But when you have an officer recount the details of said events with all the facts that are fit to post and a wry wit, that’s social media gold.
They show empathy as they describe the teachable moments of teenagers who didn’t show the best judgement on a Friday night, or boys who wandered off the trails too far from home.
They put people at ease, showing family members reunited after everyone’s cell phone lit up with silver alert when someone’s elderly mom or dad went missing.
And what could be more satisfying than reading about the porch package pirates getting caught? Or seeing a drunk driver get his sports car stuck in deep sand after doing some donuts on the beach in the middle of the night? Or the sauced sailor who beached his 35-foot boat in broad daylight?
Maybe it just goes with the job. Bartenders and hair stylists are good listeners. Personal trainers are good motivators. Cops can be great storytellers.
You can be a great storyteller.
They provide value.
Police officers use social media to serve their audience. They provide the kind of information that’s good to know — and what you urgently need to know.
Tips to prevent thefts. And, in the event of a serious emergency, they keep us up-to-date there, too.
Ten years ago, we had a mass shooting in my small town. I witnessed firsthand how quickly they responded and saw them put the shooter in handcuffs. The streets were blocked off to allow cruises to respond at warp speed, so it took a little longer to get home.
Everyone here wondered what caused multiple sirens to blare at full volume. Rumors spread through town like wildfire until the news reports confirmed what tragically happened.
If they had a Facebook page at that time, that would’ve been the first place I turned for accurate information from the source. I have since seen them shut down rumors that pop up periodically.
As a business or organization, can you think of any information that should come directly from you? What would you naturally tell your customers in person that you’re not including in your social media feeds? How could you lead by being helpful?
They are responsive.
Social media managers are often fulfilling the role of customer service.
With Facebook and Twitter, the police can quickly update their followers about what occurred or why an area should be avoided, so their 911 system or community phone line isn’t overwhelmed with inquiries.
They do a great job of answering the questions that’s on their community members’ minds.
Good social media managers answer questions about a company’s products or services within 24 hours.
They’re good PR.
We all know there are good cops and bad cops. Unfortunately, and tragically, the bad cops have been getting too much of the limelight lately. And that too can create bias.
Social media provides a more balanced perspective. It puts the spotlight back on all the great things officers do day in and day out to protect and connect with the people in their community.
I’m reassured when detectives track a serial criminal based on, wait for it, a parking ticket.
And I have to say, it’s kind of nice to watch some cops in uniform join a flash mob group of college students dancing to Uptown Funk on YouTube. Good people moving to the beat (on their beat) in their black work boots.
It lifts my spirits to see them take up a collection to buy a new bike for a 10-year-old kid they recently rescued on a mountain trail. Or to see them perform CPR on a kitten.
What’s happening at your company or organization that the world should know about? Give someone some kudos. It will be boost morale and your brand.
They communicate clearly.
This is one attribute that I’m sure comes from Police Academy training and years on the job. Police officers make their posts calm and clear, so there’s little chance their words might be misconstrued. They get to the point.
They are thoughtful with their words and judicious in the length of their posts.
So people can enjoy what they read and keep on scrolling, left with a positive impression of their local police. Mission (statement) accomplished.
Those are the nine traits I’ve found in good social media managers who just happen to be cops.
Inspiration to help you think of all the ways you can serve your own online community.
After all, good deeds should never go unnoticed.