Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Celebrate your social media successes, but don't forget that community trust is the key

In June Baltimore Police Department hit a milestone on Twitter, reaching 50,000 followers.

In celebration of this, they released the following video, reflecting the department's achievement and thanking the community for helping them make Baltimore's streets safer.

It is an awesome video and I totally support and respect organisations celebrating like this. It's important for staff to recognise when their organisation has done well and share in the success, and it can be a powerful way of connecting an organisation with its community.

This type of approach is also a great way to show that an organisation is composed of real people, who are simply performing a role when they don their uniforms. it humanises the staff and can bridge gaps between faceless bureaucracies and corporations and their constituents and customers.

Unfortunately this isn't where the story ends.

Several Baltimore Police officers have been charged with various offenses related to animal cruelty or inappropriate behaviour over the last few years, becoming the subject of significant media attention.

A local newspaper created a response to the Police Department's video using the same music (different lyrics) illustrating a number of these incidents, to paint a different picture of the Baltimore Police and, they said, as a courteous reminder for the Police Department to clean up their own act.

While this second video has only received 10% of the views of the Police video so far (it has been live for about half the time), it is a telling reminder for organisations of the importance of building and maintaining positive community relationships.

If the public are well disposed towards your organisation, they will (largely) support you on social channels. If your organisation has taken actions, or has been portrayed to have taken actions, that place it in a negative light, you will face a greater level of negativity when engaging with the public on social media.

This crosses channels, however is often most immediately visible on social channels due to their speed and reach. Ultimately a bad impression will reflect on how the public engages with your staff via other means - on the phone, in correspondence and in person - making it harder for staff to perform their roles.

Of course, it may take only one disgruntled, sarcastic or delusional individual to create and distribute material like the video above, and may not be reflective of broader community views. However how far this material will spread and how fair a representation it is seen to be depends on the pre-existing negative or positive views of your organisation.

A good reputation will have your community come out in support, a bad reputation will see the material distributed far and wide with support.

Social media isn't just a reflection of the world - it is part of the world. How your organisation conducts itself on social channels can significantly shape community views - creating a positive or negative impression.

So don't take this parody video as a reason to not celebrate your successes or shutdown your social accounts. Instead use them as ways to effectively engage with your community, helping solve problems and participating respectfully and humanly to build and maintain good relationships with the people you serve.

1 comment:

  1. 'Trigger Happy' is real fact and what's happening there. Those police officers need Mental Health First Aid training and maybe some individual need psychotherapy too!


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