As you are well aware one of the services major ambitions is to effectively engage with the community it serves, social media appears to enables us to both develop and inform our communities, in an instinctive way.
Rebecca (Barrow CDRP) also makes a very good point when she speaks of the “immediacy” aspect of such types of communication. For instance the service sometimes speaks of its difficulty in reaching so called hard to reach groups; this is where SM really comes into its own, allowing total flexibility as to when and how the contributor responds / accesses such forums .
Most people are now accessing social media via smartphones or similar devices, this allows for almost immediate connectivity, something younger generations not only understand but positively demand. Popular analysis seems to support the idea of being forward thinking now, in order to have any chance of capturing/maintaining communication with this group in the future.
I think the service sometimes forgets just how interested the wider community is in what we do and how we deliver services, particularly at times of difficulty. There are now increasing numbers of senior officers such as yourself who are playing a major role in expanding this area of public engagement. Personally I think this style is in keeping with today’s demands and personalises our desire to be approachable, accessible and transparent.
So what do the police get out of S/M, answer (in my opinion) lots, with the main areas being, fast time connectivity with both its public and staff, the ability to seek feedback with regards to how we deliver services / initiatives, to communicate information relevant to threat/ harm including information requests and finally and importantly inform the wider community of our successes which ultimately supports community reassurance.
I accept however, as always there is a flipside to such an open style of communication, which obviously and rightly allows us to be criticised when appropriate. I believe this to be a positive thing as it allows for genuine feedback with regards to the work we do. Personally I am thankful for the Constabulary’s style of leadership which allows staff to feel empowered to make effective use of social media / networking.