When the dust settled on the New York Police Department’s rather cumbersome Twitter-based outreach initiative back in April, its social media team took the wise decision to train up its high-ranking commanders on how best to engage with the public using the microblogging site, as well as other services such as Facebook.
In the intervening months, some of the department’s top officials have been attending so-called Twitter School to learn about how to run a social media campaign that paints the department in a good light, rather than one that descends into a shambling mess.
The lessons have seen a number of the department’s commanders learning everything from how to send a tweet to what kinds of posts are likely to prove a hit with followers, the Wall Street Journal reported recently. The course also comes with a 34-page manual on how to avoid damaging PR disasters and instead use social media as an effective communication tool.
The officials have been told that “Dad humor” goes down well, as well as posts about animal rescues. In addition, cops on Twitter have been instructed to avoid sounding insensitive, and to keep an eye out for scams.
“If a Nigerian prince contacts you on Twitter, please do not engage,” lead trainer Martha Norrick told a recent class.
Related: DT’s guide to using Twitter
Social media has become a big part of the NYPD’s efforts to connect with the public, especially since William Bratton took the post of commissioner at the start of the year. The department currently has around 40 different Twitter accounts, as well as a Facebook account whose number of followers has expanded by 40 percent since January. Other police departments around the US, however, currently make much bigger use of social media, with the NYPD apparently keen to catch up.
To give her class of NYPD officials an idea of the kind of well-constructed tweet they should be aiming at, Norrick highlighted a post by cops in San Francisco: “Officers just arrested a naked man in the bison paddock in GG Park. The bison seemed unimpressed.”
Norrick described the message as “the perfect kind of funny. This naked man is not named, we are not sharing a photo of him.” And just in case her students weren’t absolutely clear, she added, “Do not share photos of naked men on Twitter.”