Five Things Your Social Media Strategy Could Learn from the Seattle Police Department

Police Social Media Mast

You take your company’s social media presence pretty seriously. What if it that’s part of the problem?

The Seattle Police Department has found a way to use Twitter ostensibly to help serve and protect with both plenty of heart and of no shortage of laughs. In a time of difficult dialogue around law enforcement, it seems one way to regain the trust of a community is to become more human, albeit online.

SPD’s Twitter following represents 36% of the community they police. Compare that to:

  • San Francisco – 8%
  • New York City – 3%
  • San Diego – 2%
  • Dallas – 1.6%
  • Los Angeles – 1%

SPD most recently earned a visit from the Surgeon General because of their life-saving efforts treating victims of drug overdoses on scene as victims first and criminals second, not the other way around.

1. Connecting to your audience

If you ever feel like you are playing to a tough crowd on Twitter, consider being a law enforcement agency. Police departments ostensibly have no choice but to serve everyone in their jurisdiction, and they must continue to do so in the face of criticism and hostility – earned and unearned. You’d think this would harden them into speaking with an authoritarian voice and projecting only strength. Instead, they seem to realize that earning trust by being playful and likable is more effective than projecting toughness and seriousness.

The Seattle Police Department earned press and praise when they handed out Doritos at a recent Hempfest, before marijuana became recreationally legal.

They make a point of attending community events, and posting lots of pictures with leaders and citizens from all facets of the community. And they seem to take meaningful participation in the community seriously.

2. Being personable and approachable

SPD seems to be checking and engaging on Twitter throughout the day. They respond to directed tweets, including some of the more playful ones. Unlike what one might expect from the more disconnected or distracted government agencies, SPD takes notice and seems eager to retweet positive sentiments from the community.

3. Not taking yourself too seriously

When even questions about zombie apocalypse are willingly and playfully addressed, it signals an engaged and human police force. In what ways does your company show its person-to-person spirit, over and above a rigid idea of brand?

4. Speaking boldly but honestly

It’s not clear just how SPD responds to all criticism leveled online, but retweeting community meetings where police legitimacy is up for discussion can’t hurt, if transparency and becoming better is truly the goal.

5. Work is hard. Find ways to have fun talking about what you do.

In case you were worried about super heroes turning the tables on the local authorities:

If you do the crime, you’ve got to be willing to do the time, with a possible additional sentence of being a punchline on the SPD feed:

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