If you aren’t already on social media when a crisis hits, there’s a whole conversation that’s happening without you & you can’t afford not to be listening & participating

Editor’s note: The SMILE (Social Media, the Internet and Law Enforcement) Conference provides officers with all the technical hands-on skills and the practical knowledge to utlitze social media platforms for public outreach, crime prevention and forensics. The conference is a great opportunity for those involved in social media efforts to share suggestions and stories on this ever-changing topic. Below you will find social media tips from one of the speakers at the conference.

1. If you’re already on social media, you likely already know who your influencers and detractors are. Your influencers are the people that follow or “like” you that have a large following and tend to re-tweet your messages or make positive comments on your posts. Your detractors are those that continually counteract your social media efforts through negative or harmful comments. Keep track of both groups and keep a list of them handy. In a crisis situation, you’ll want to reach out to your influencers to increase the reach of your messaging. You’ll also want to monitor your detractors to ensure they aren’t sabotaging your communication efforts.

2. If you’re a police agency, people on social media are talking about you. If you aren’t already on social media when a crisis hits, there’s a whole conversation that’s happening without you and you can’t afford not to be listening and participating. In a crisis, social media is becoming the primary place where people go to look for information, and if you aren’t there putting out official messaging, someone else will do it for you–and their information may not be accurate. Be the official source of information in a crisis by building your audience and credibility when the waters are calm. Prep your key messages (think 140 characters or less!) and have a crisis communication plan so you can make it through the storm unscathed.

Stephanie Mackenzie-Smith is the Corporate Communications Supervisor at York Regional Police in Ontario where she is responsible for the branding, marketing and online strategy of the 2,000 member police service. Her role includes strategic communications planning and the development of crisis communication plans, best practices documents and standard operating procedures as they relate to social media. She also teaches Media Relations Officers and Public Information Officers on social media use at the Ontario Police College and regularly presents on social media policy, procedure and misconduct. Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Ryerson University.