I have to be honest, most of the time when I write about Twitter it usually has something to do with professionals acting unprofessionally, agencies overreacting and blaming the tech instead of addressing the unprofessional behavior, or highlighting how agencies are either incompetent at Twitter or just plain old incompetent. Now not all Twitter is news is bad, there have been positive stories about campaigns for good causes, agencies that do it right, and those educational articles on how to use Twitter. While it’s ALL not bad, the bad always seems to come through.
Which is why I am really happy to be able to write this article.
@Boston_Police Did It Right
If you followed the events in Boston last week, I hope the two Twitter accounts you followed and relied upon was Boston Police Department and Boston EMS. Not only did they provide timely information, but most importantly it was accurate.
As the event unfolded and the focus shifted from the incident and the victims to the investigation and identifying perpetrators the Boston Police Department Twitter took on a new importance, especially with the mass media reporting on rumors and speculation. The team behind the account did some very specific things that have set the new standard for Public Safety Agencies using Twitter.
- Using native Twitter functions: Many teams employ some sort of third party app to manage their Twitter accounts, such as Hootsuite or CoTweet. One of the problems with these services is that photos and videos do not necessarily show up in the native Twitter app as a “Twitter Card“, most commonly found on native uploads under the “Expand” link. It appears the Boston Police Department used the actual Twitter interface the ensure that their content would be seen
- Use of hashtags: While we’ve talked about use of hashtags concerning specific events, we never discussed using hashtags to direct the message. Boston Police Department used the hashtags #CommunityAlert and #MediaAdvisory creatively to direct messages to the audience they intended it for. This novel use of Hashtags highlights both their flexibility and their importance
- Correct the Mass Media: At one point in the investigation both CNN and Fox reported that a suspect had been apprehended. These reports were based on “sources”, and were truly and utterly false. The Boston Police Department was able to dispel the rumor and in that instant became a more reliable source than the mass media
The New Twitter Standard For Public Safety Agencies
Going forward, Public Safety Agencies will need to do a couple of things to make sure they meet the standard that @Boston_Police has set for agencies using Twitter. Agenices will have to:
- Make their updates timely and consistently
- Use Hashtags to both categorize and direct messaging
- Ensure the full use of Twitter functions by using native applications for multi-media and links
- Remain a source of reliable information for ALL subscribers
- Dispel rumors and misinformation with reliable statements and maintain being a trusted source of information throughout
In conclusion, it is important that as our social media audiences grow, and our use of social media grows that we continually evolve our usage with our audience to maximize the effectiveness of the message. Great job to the Boston Police Department, and I hope your department accepts the challenge to meet the new standard they have set.