Whether your agency has just decided to start using social media, or already has a social media presence and is looking to improve or enhance it, having a strategy is crucial. IACP and Accenture have developed Ready, set, go, a self-assessment tool and guide to help agencies with the strategy development process.
Ten Key Strategy Considerations
- Research. Researching promising practices and social media use in law enforcement can be helpful in providing insight and direction concerning your own strategy. Research may also include what platforms your community members are using, how are they using them, and what are they saying about your agency.
- Management. Determine who will manage your social media presence. Will this person be responsible for creating and publishing the content to your social media sites? It is important to consider this early on to ensure key stakeholders are involved in the planning process. Keep in mind social media tools are modes of communication, and are best placed in the hands of those familiar with communication and outreach strategies.
- Fears. What fears do you have related to social media? Acknowledge these fears and determine how you will move forward in a manner that is both conscientious of these concerns and also recognizes the benefits that come with innovation and enhanced communication.
- Goals. As with any new initiative, it is important to set goals. Without goals, it will be impossible to determine success in the future. Your goals may be diverse, ranging from strictly numerical outputs such as page views or number of followers, to offline behaviors and actions, to overarching community themes such as reduced crime or improved police-community relations. Some of these goals may seem difficult to measure, but identify them anyway.
- Audience. Identify your current audience as well as potential audiences that you may not be reaching or audiences you hope to reach in the future. Social media will allow you to reach a broad audience and include new demographics in your outreach.
- Content. The content you share may include news, event information, disaster preparedness tips, and alerts. Your goals will help determine the types of content you choose to distribute. Keep in mind that social media outlets do not limit you to text, consider using other types of content such as pictures and video.
- Level of Engagement. Your goals will also help determine the degree of interaction you want to facilitate. Social media sites promote user participation; however, as you set up your presence on various platforms you have the option of restricting certain types of interaction (e.g. user comments).
- Platforms. Your answers to type of content, level of engagement, and audience in combination with your goals and research will help to determine the platform or platforms that best suit your needs. Different social media platforms provide different modes for communicating and have different demographic representation. Remember, it is not necessary to be present on every social media site, instead choose one or two to begin and establish your strategy. You may decide to broaden your scope to include other sites as you move forward.
- Integration. Remember, social media is just one tool that will help to enhance your communication and outreach initiatives. Social media can work within your current framework and is not meant as a substitute for other tools and methods.
- Follow-up. Is your strategy working for you? What about your community? Look back to the goals you set and establish if you are meeting those goals or have put yourself on track to meet those goals, if not, determine what needs to change. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Social media is flexible and ever changing and allows you to generate the experience that best suits your agency and your community.