Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Does Your Department Need Facebook and Twitter?

Does your department need a Facebook and a Twitter account?  The answer is no; however, you might want one!

Excluding profile pages for babies, children, and pets, there are approximately 200 million Facebook accounts registered to persons within the United States.  Statistically, 50% of these users log in to Facebook at least daily.  Really, who do you know that doesn't have a Facebook account?  Although Twitter is not quite as popular, polls have shown that 18% of American's actively utilize a twitter account (both posting and following).

You are probably wondering how a department page would be beneficial to your organization.  Active Facebook users are a captive audience.  They routinely check their news feed to see what is going on with their friends, companies they like, and their local community.  Traditional news media (such as newspaper and television news casts) is no longer the primary means of obtaining information.  Many people are now obtaining their news (at least the initial reports) through Facebook and Twitter.  By having a department page, you can quickly and easily share information with a large portion of your community.

We can use the Virginia State Police as an example.  Recently a photograph of a southwest Virginia fugitive was posted on the department's Facebook page. A surprised Sergeant Geller said, "The phones lit up at the dispatch center."  All of this occurred within a few minutes of the post.  Leads were pouring in from the 27,000-plus people who follow the agency on Facebook.

It's not just beneficial to police departments either!  Prince George's County Fire & Emergency services in Maryland has been tweeting since 2006!  Their twitter page is PGFDPIO, and it reads mostly like an emergency scanner. They use Twitter and a blog to give updates quickly about incidents that would generate concern from the community, such as large fires or crashes on major roadways.

A growing number of departments are turning to social media to spread information and solicit tips.  Although the number of departments with a social media account of some kind has nearly doubled in the past couple of years, there are still a great deal of departments that do not have one.  Both Facebook and Twitter are easy to set up.  And both require a minimal amount of maintenance, primarily just posting information for your community as needed (which is determined by you).

To create a Facebook Account:
  1. Determine who you would like to be your administrator (you can always change this or add additional administrators later).
  2. Have your administrator sign in to their personal Facebook page.
  3. Go to the Create A Page page of Facebook.
  4. Select "Company, Organization or Institution".
  5. Select "Government Organization" as your category type.
  6. Insert your Police Department name as your company name.  If you live in a commonly named town, I recommend adding the state (ex: Middletown Police Department (NY) or Middeltown (NY) Police Department).
  7. Agree to the Facebook pages terms and get started.
  8. Add a profile picture and input the basic information about your department (location, non-emergency contact numbers, etc).
To create a Twitter Account::
  1. Go to the home page of Twitter.
  2. Set up a new account with your real name and email address (be sure not to use an email that you might use for a personal Twitter account as you can only register it one time).
  3. Determine a name for your Twitter account.  There is a 15 character limit on user names, so you might need to get creative (such as previously mentioned Prince George's County Fire).
  4. Create your account.
That's it, you're all set up.  Then, just start posting about police, fire, and emergency information regarding your community.  To get some ideas, check out a few of our favorites:


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