Police have seized … Facebook

One of the roaring success stories of social media currently has to be the Australian police presence on Facebook.

Recently we’ve seen the South Australian Police join Facebook, following the lead of police departments in Queensland and New South Wales. While the SA Police seem to be new to proactive social media, they’ve done the job extraordinarily well and are scoring major goals. Consider what its Facebook Page is achieving:

  • Asking the community for help – and getting that help. It’s Crimestoppers meets crowdsourcing. SA Police now has a helpful public at its disposal.
  • Improving its brand by demonstrating its level of activity. I’ve been amazed by the number of arrests that are posted on the page. Did you imagine your police force sat around behind speed cameras or ate donuts all day? Reading the Facebook Page, now I feel like the taxpayer has an active, effective and hardworking police force.
  • Providing a powerful outlet for police messages. Facebook is there whenever the SA Police needs it: it doesn’t need to rely on traditional media to broadcast. And its community can refer to posts later if they’ve forgotten details. They can pass posts onto friends, and access them on their phones. Much better than a TV service announcement that is here and gone in seconds (”how many centimetres tall did they say the suspect was?”)

SA Police hasn’t excluded other avenues of communication in favour of Facebook – its SA Police News website is still ticking along  for example. (In fact, it also uses Twitter).

SA Police
SA Police

What a great example to government, community service and community groups in general, of how powerful and supportive social media can be.

As an aside: at the recent Frocomm New Media Summit, a representative of the NSW Police spoke about the Facebook experience there. He said there was some trepidation and expectations of abuse (you can imagine!) But they were surprised. He described that department’s experience  on Facebook as “overwhelmingly positive”.

Do you follow any police departments on social media?

Footnote: don’t miss Laurel Papworth’s blog on the same topic!

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Ash Simmonds says:

    If the police ever follow me on Twitter I’ll be constantly checking my mirrors while tweeting.

  2. Mal Chia says:

    I had no idea SAPOL were so active on FB. Good on ’em!

    Wonder if you report a crime on there somebody will respond?

    1. Prakky says:

      Fantatic, isn’t it? They gained those numbers really quickly too.

    2. Ash Simmonds says:

      “Officer, someone stole my status update.”

      1. Prakky says:

        Now you’re heading into Foursquare Police territory.

      2. Ash Simmonds says:

        Foursquare and seven months ago our followers brought forth on this social media a new location app, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all venues are created equal.

  3. Mankit Au says:

    Great insights, Michelle! It’ll be interesting to see the responses if the police force decides to post pictures on the “most wanted” criminal up onto the fb!?

  4. Fergus says:

    I agree it’s been really interesting to see Police implement their social media strategy – well done to them. But personally I cant see the attraction of following them and being swamped by a plethora of ‘bad news’ ie crime events day after day. Yes, it shows the police at work, but I think it has the potential to raise community fear that crime is rampant, when the crime rate is actually falling.

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks for your comment Fergus, you make a very good point. However I don’t see that the Facebook stream would make people any more fearful than the TV news or newspaper photos they are already bombarded with. In addition, much of the Facebook Page is about the resolution of problems, which can reduce community fear and increase a sense of the police being ‘in control’.

      1. Fergus says:

        Hi Prakky, you’re right, Facebook is just another channel. I guess I opt out of ‘consuming’ crime – its interesting that lots of other opt in. I dont get the attraction. Cycling blogs are much more interesting… Your blog is good too! Keep it up.

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