Do you keep your social media presence “close to the vest” (e.g. only allowing Public Information Officers the ability to post content) or does your strategy include the ability for all agency officials to reach the community? The latter type of presence involves letting go of control to some extent and this, of course, requires a huge leap of faith from leadership, especially in top-down oriented public safety organizations. However, this type of strategy is currently being done quite successfully.
DECENTRALIZED COMMUNICATIONS: IS THIS THE EVOLUTION OF YOUR SOCIAL PRESENCE?
In the book “Social Media in the Public Sector Field Guide” Ines Mergel and Bill Greeves suggest that a decentralized approach to social media content production is evidence of an evolved use of social media in organizations. They state that agencies that have been using social media for a while often “make social media the responsibility of everyone” and offer the benefits of this decision:
A recent decision at the Department of Defense was to abandon the role of the social media director and instead transfer that position’s responsibilities onto many shoulders in the organization. It is very difficult for a single department or division to speak with the knowledge and authority of all the business units of an organization. “Official” responses often require time and research. They frequently result in formal answers that do not fit the casual tone inherent in social media. By formally distributing the tasks and response functions to those who have the knowledge required to have meaningful online conversations on social media channels, you can decrease maintenance costs, increase trust in those exchanges and reduce the number of missteps or rounds of interaction it takes before citizens get the “right” response from your agency. (pages 110-112)
Jim Garrow, who blogs at “The Face of the Matter” makes a similar case: “My point, and it naturally follows from last week’s post on having others write for your agency, is that we [PIOs] need to get the hell out of the way. Let your agency shine through every day. Give your experts the podium they deserve. Build them a following (or let them build a following).”
BUT HOW WOULD THIS WORK FOR PUBLIC SAFETY ORGANIZATIONS?
The Toronto Police Department provides an example of complete decentralization of social media content. As can be seen in the image below their agency’s website homepage has all the “big 3” social media buttons: Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. These buttons take the user to their official account, most likely administered by a Public Information Officer.
Choose, however, the “Connect with us” tab right below it, and their world opens up. I counted 119 different social media accounts for this organization–119! What are all these people talking about? Ideally, the content they are posting should be directly related to their position or function in the organization, and with each of the samples I chose at random, that proved to be the case. Take for instance Sgt Jack West (@SgtJackWest)—who has the title of “Traffic Enforcement.” No shocker, he talks a lot about traffic and how people can stay safe–e.g “Don’t text and drive” etc.
Motoryclist down on lakeshore Blvd, west of Kipling Ave. Emergency Services on location
— Jack West (@SgtJackWest) May 28, 2013
Patricia Fleischmann or @caringcop on Twitter, has the title of “Vulnerable Persons Coordinator.” What does she post about? How elderly and other people who might be vulnerable to crime and natural disasters can be better prepared. She also Tweets quite a lot about people that are helping each other, organizations folks can turn to for assistance, and information from community meetings she attends. She has a healthy following of 762 people.
— Patricia Fleischmann (@CaringCop) May 10, 2013
I could go on for while with examples, but feel free to explore of these great social feeds yourself by clicking here. So, how do they keep everyone in their “lane?” How do they keep all of these people from embarrassing the organization and posting inappropriate content? Yikes–this is scary territory!
I have been told by some of these Toronto Tweeters, that they do the following:
Before they get their social account, they are required to attend a 3-day intensive social media training class that provides them with not only information about how and why to use social networks, but also how NOT to use them. This would include Department and City posting policies.
Each of the accounts are clearly marked with the fact that the person works for the Toronto Police Department, however, they do often choose to use their own picture instead of the PD’s logo–giving the account a personal touch, which I think is critical for community outreach and engagement (it says to the public–we are people to).
Each account states that they do not monitor the account 24/7, and that if anyone needs emergency assistance they should dial 911. (See below–each person’s account information looks almost identical.)
Each Twitter profile links back to the official website.
This obviously is not a willy nilly hey, all-you-guys-go-Tweet-something strategy. Their strategy is obvious, their goals are clear; and it seems to me they are meeting the objectives of reaching out and connecting with the public on platforms that the public uses everyday.
See, it’s not so scary after all!
This post was previously published at iDisaster 2.0.
Kim Stephens is an independent emergency management consultant and the lead blogger of iDisaster 2.0 where she writes about the benefits as well as the challenges the emergency management community and other public sector entities might face when employing new information communications technologies before, during and after a crisis. She has over a decade of experience in the field of emergency management. Her experience has spanned federal, local and non-governmental organizations: from the US Environmental Protection Agency, to the Tennessee Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management, and the American Red Cross. She has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Texas A&M University.
Finally Friday is an occasional series of posts which look at the lighter side of life.
In particular, I delight in rounding up examples of criminals whose own stupidity is the main reason they were brought to justice.
There have been a couple of distinctive examples over the last month.
Don’t recycle your tweets
Emma Way drove so recklessly that she knocked a cyclist off his bike.
She did not stop to see if he was all right.
She did not report the accident.
But she did tweet about it:
Ms Way might only have had 100 followers on Twitter but, as Sally Bercow and many others know, tweeters can smell a dodgy tweet from the other side of the World Wide Web.
By the time Ms Way had deleted her Twitter account, Norwich Police were soon in on the act and advising her, via Twitter, to report the accident ASAP.
@emmaway20 we have had tweets ref an RTC with a bike. We suggest you report it at a police station ASAP if not done already & then dm us
— Norwich Police (@NorwichPoliceUK) May 19, 2013
Ms Way ended up having to make a full confession on the BBC and police are “progressing with their enquiries”.
Tracing the untraceable
Our second instance of criminal stupidity feature Wayne Braud, a member of a large drug gang based in Rochdale.
The ten man team imported drugs concealed in tinned goods and prided themselves on being untracelabe because they used pay as you go mobile phones from which they deleted all data before disposing of them.
Unfortunately, Mr Braud wasn’t so security conscious, helpfully spelling out his nickname in cocaine and getting an accomplice to take a photo:
The gang were sentenced to a total of 92 years and you can see the full story on the Merseyside Police video below:
Hacks mimic identity of your friend to access your information
Recently a number of people including me have received friend requests on Facebook from people they know. Why is this unusual? Because these requests are from people who are ‘already’ connected and listed as friends.
The requests are from scammers attempting to gain access to your Facebook account and utilise your information that you share only with friends. They are using the scam of Ghost Accounts. Meaning they are Fake Imposter Accounts, that have copied everything from a friends Facebook Account, that is available on public view.
Once they are accepted into your account, they are in a position to glean as much information as needed to further their scam. They send friend requests to your friends and can make an imposter account from your details.
What to do
If you receive a request, firstly check with your friend to see if they have created another account.
If they have not – Report the Imposter account and warn all the people in your friend list to also report the account.
Some helpful linked from Facebook:
- Report an account pretending to be you
- Report a fake account that’s pretending to be one of your friends
- Request a copy of what was posted about you
- Protect privacy of your image
How to fix it
Change your Profile picture and Cover photo, as the fake account is likely to have copied these and is using them. Friends can then distinguish between the imposter and the correct Facebook account.
Check what is on Public View – this is done by choosing the ‘View As’ tab on your Profile Page.
Lock down your Friend list. To do this ~ Click the friends tab on your Profile and from the dropdown box choose the option of ‘Edit Privacy’ and then ‘Only Me’.
The more difficult issue comes from a friend who appears to have just joined Facebook and sends you a request. Be on alert, verify the account by sending the friend a text message or email. Do Not Send an inbox message to this new account request, as this does not verify the account! If you are not comfortable contacting the person to verify the account, should they really be on your friend list?!
(If you feel you have to friend them, once verified, place them in the ‘Restricted’ or ‘Acquaintance’ listing so they view only a limited profile.)
Some would say the above is too cumbersome and time consuming, but how much is your information worth? Isn’t going the extra yards to protect your account, personal posts and photos worth it?! …. I think so!
Real life scenario
A new person started at the office and you later receive a friend request from them. A check of their Timeline shows their account was only opened last monday. For the moment you ignore the account request. The next day you check the account and they have managed to friend 16 of your mutual friends.
Nobody has bothered to check via text, email or other contact, to verify this person or the account. It is later discovered it is an imposter account.
This ‘friend hack’ now has access to a number of colleagues information from that work environment, along with access to their family photos, friends, other information and personal posts.
This is a real scenario, discovered this week! These work colleagues had no idea and are concerned as their information may have been downloaded, copied, printed out or shared by the fake account!
More than ever being a friend on social media, needs to hold an element of respect, trust and appreciation that you have been chosen to be an online friend.
The friends you have on Facebook need to have your back… if you can’t verify them or trust them.. ‘unfriend’ and get rid of them! This is for online safety and management of your digital reputation, not only for you, but for your family and friends.
Janita Docherty founder and Director of CyberActive Services is a trained Crime Prevention Executive with more than 18 years experience in the field of law and criminal investigation. Janita specialises in Facebook and Internet Safety instruction and is recognised for her work with law enforcement Units dedicated in the fields of E-Crime, Sex Crime, State Intelligence and Tactical Intelligence areas. Janita has an intricate knowledge on the workings of Facebook from a criminal intelligence perspective and is a leader in her field regarding Facebook training to Police and specialist law enforcement departments both in Australia and the United States. Janita has completed training with the Internet Crime Against Children (ICAC) Taskforce, and holds a number of Certifications, including a Diploma in Frontline Management, a full qualification in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), is a Youth Mental Health First Aider and has been presented with a National Service Medal. She is held in high regard within social media and law enforcement domains, for her enthusiasm to educate professionals, regarding online safety and digital reputation management.
Missing in action
I recently posted about the increasing number of ways that social media is being used for social good – including saving the lives of human rights workers.
Now social media – and Twitter in particular – is becoming the mainstream way of locating missing people.
I was slightly surprised when I reviewed five UK police Facebook pages recently and found that a third of the most popular posts related to missing persons.
@BrightPlanet were kind enough to share the data they harvested from the recent Global Police Tweetathon and I found that 330 of the 9,836 tweets from UK forces sent on 22 March this year were also about missing persons.
It’s no surprise that police use social media for this purpose though.
I’ve come across two successful outcomes in the last month.
West Midlands Police find “escaped” patient
A 75 year old man with dementia wandered away from a hospital in Birmingham last Saturday.
@WMPolice were contacted by the hospital at 2 p.m. and immediately posted requests for information on Twitter and Facebook at the same time as they started a major police search.
Less than an hour later, a member of the public who saw the social media messages noticed a man matching the description leaning against a wall two miles from the hospital and phoned the police who picked up the missing patient and returned him safe and sound.
Full details here.
Twitter helps Belfast woman find missing mum
A Belfast woman with Alzheimer’s Disease went out to walk her dogs at 9 o’clock in the morning on 3rd April this year.
By teatime, she had still not returned home and her family were sick with worry.
Her daughter, who was travelling back from Donegal, felt helpless because she could not get a good phone signal, so decided to post an appeal on Twitter and Facebook.
She urged her followers to retweet and share the picture message.
The message was re-tweeted hundreds of time and was crucially seen by a local resident:
“I was sitting in the living room, watching TV, and I noticed a woman walking past the window with two dogs,” she said.
“She seemed a wee bit dazed and kind of caught my attention but I didn’t think anything of it.
Literally, 30 seconds later I was on Twitter and I saw a re-tweet with a photo of the woman I’d just seen.
I jumped in the car, drove round and caught up with her.”
She gently coaxed the woman into coming into the house for a cup of tea while her husband rang the worried daughter and the police.
Coincidentally both the daughter and the woman who found her mother were both used to being given a hard time by their husbands for being Twitter addicts.
I reckon they can tweet as often as they like from now on.
Full details on the BBC Northern Ireland website here.