How to be a surprise success at social media

I’m not very good at social media, so I find people who are and copy them. When you don’t have talent, a talent for learning and observation is the next best thing. In my observations as to who rocks at social media, a shock contender for top dog continues to dominate and grow fro strength to strength. It’s not an organisation that necessarily has a good public reputation in the State that I live in, and their usual manner of communication does not sound very engaging at all. In fact, these are the last people you would expect to be on social media and to be such a success at it. And they are…

The police! Yes I said it, THE POLICE! I first encountered the QPS Facebook and twitter feed during the Brisbane floods. During a time of city wide emergency it became a reliable and instant source of critical news about flood inundation, road closures, etc. During that time many people across Brisbane ‘liked’ the QPS Facebook page and thanks to smart phones instant updates on the flood situation were being sent to people’s pockets all over the city. A little buzz in your pocket of a push notice had us grabbing for our phones for any important local information. I have taken a great interest in the way in which they use social media since and the significant degree of engagement they have on their Facebook page. Their social media presence is an unmitigated success, and a real surprise packet.

Here’s what I’ve observed about how they operate. Take these principles and apply them to your church or to your organisation, especially if you are in the business of connecting with people, establishing lines of communication, establishing a following and informing and educating about your role and operations.

1.  Fast, critical information.

During times of emergency whether city wide or localized, the QPS Facebook and Twitter feed keeps the people of Brisbane up to date with the latest developments. It’s my new favourite source of traffic information.

2.  Humour

You would imagine a police social media feed to be somewhat dull and perfunctory.  There’s clearly a few characters working in their social media department.  Here’s some recent examples:

Reports of a horse hoofing it on Trouts Rd, Aspley. Take care while we convince him he’s not cut out for the fast lane #bnetraffic

Cracking the case of why the chicken crossed the road. One spotted on Gateway n/b before Murrarie exit. No fowl play involved. #bnetraffic

Mattress, Ipswich Motorway Eastbound before Logan Rd. Take care while we lay down the law #notadriverreviver #bnetraffic

This next post dates the poster in their mid-40’s or above, proving that you don’t have to born yesterday to learn how to engage on social media. (Name the artist in the reference)

Don’t pay the ferryman – he won’t get you to the other side today. Moggill Ferry out of action #bnetraffic

The humour generates discussion and interaction and helps change negatives perception of police and serves to humanise them.

Churches do well to take themselves less seriously in terms of how and what they communicate.  Engaging people in humour and helping transform negative perceptions about joyless conservative people is an important aspect of engaging with our culture.

4.  Brutal Honesty.

Whenever there is a bad news story about the police expect to find it first on their social media feed, even before a press conference is held. Statements are regularly posted about disciplinary matters or even criminal charges against police. By coming clean early the police create a good perception of being transparent and they also help take some of the wind out of the media’s sails by airing the story first before it becomes a scoop.

Churches across Australia have all too often hidden their indiscretions and created a perception of stonewalling and unaccountability (reference the tragic and seemingly endless child sexual abuse cases).  This culture of brutal honesty helps build credibility and community support.

5.  Engaging

The true measure of the success of a social media presence is engagement. For some organisations engagement is critical.  It is absolutely critical that a police service is engaged with the people it is charged with protecting for a range of very good reasons, let alone operational ones. The manner in which QPS engages people on social media achieves great relational dividends and also critical information flow. Important public announcements are able to spread virally through followers ‘sharing’ or ‘liking’ or ‘re-tweeting’.

6.  Educating

The QPS social media presence enables it to educate followers about a range of issues, including building a more informed knowledge of the extent of the police service and its operations, important information about laws, other key messages that QPS deems important for public dissemination. The police force service is much better understood thanks to their social media presence.

7.  Celebrating History

QPS runs interesting ‘from our history vault’ posts with fascinating historical pictures and stories from bygone times when policing was very different to modern times.  By doing this they celebrate their history and help tell the bigger story about policing in this State.

8.  Celebrating Successes

Photos of promoted officers and also officers who achieve bravery awards, etc are often posted.  This surely helps encourage serving members and their families and publicly celebrates creditable achievements by the police service. Regular updates on high achieving or injured police dogs helps generate the ‘Aah’ factor and build goodwill.

Taking the above principles and applying them to your church would be a worthwhile exercise.  Congratulations to QPS for making such a great success of their social media presence.  May the force be with you…. (sorry).

Stan Fetting is the Operations Manager of Crossover and manages this website. He received no inducements to write this article and is currently not seeking a reduction of sentence for any known crime.