After the success of the GMP24 Twitter day, when the Greater Manchester Police force tweeted all the calls for help received, the use of social media has gone back to its roots. Local neighbourhood officers have been given the power to start connecting with their community through the social network.

The first one went live on 25 October and a challenge has been how to evaluate the progress and measure success. There are some systems that you can use to gauge the influence and impact that your social media activity has. But one of the simplest measures is whether it is bringing results and support officers as they go about their day-to-day business.

Police Community Support Officer Ben Scott was the first to begin using Twitter to communicate with his communities in Didsbury, Withington, Old Moat and Burnage in South Manchester. In the space of four months he has gathered more than 500 followers.
In a recent report Ben said: “Through Twitter I can communicate with hundreds of people instantly. I, as just one officer, can connect with hundreds of people within seconds. This is something when I think about it that is truly amazing, and something that would have been impossible years ago.

“The key to the use of Twitter is that it is used in real time. This would appear to be one of the main elements of appreciation from the followers of @GMPdidsbury. I have received many messages, or mentions, from people thanking me for tweeting virtually as soon as a job has come in.”

It is the real examples of how this social media use is supporting the operational activity that are the best way to analyse the progress. Ben has had some great examples of how Twitter can support his work including tweeting personal safety tips for women students after a rape in the local area and also including reassuring messages about the work that was underway. Another example was using Twitter to help repeat victims of antisocial behaviour. A student household had problems with people throwing eggs at their house. Ben did the usual visits and action but mentioned they could follow him on Twitter. After doing that he has been able to maintain contact, they have sent messages asking for visits when Ben is on patrol and discuss any problems.

The use has also helped to expand his knowledge with people sharing information with their local police. Recently after tweeting about the support that is available through the Samaritans one follower highlighted that there was an additional support line available for students. Ben was then able to publicise that service.

There is also the opportunity to share information about public meetings and policing surgeries or general information about crime and what police are doing to make the area safer. But it is the opportunities that exist that have made the greatest impact on Ben.
“I have found that Twitter has become a foundation for innovation and is making me think about new ways to communicate and engage with my community,” Ben added in the recent report. “I look at the positive work me, and my colleagues, are doing in the community and can tell my community about it on a far greater scale than I could have done before.”

The initiative has now led to Ben considering how to make greater use of Twitter by sharing more about the positive work and challenging stereotypical and negative views of the police. This is work that will sit alongside the continued face-to-face communication that must take place. Twitter then becomes a further way to engage people and bring them out of their lives to talk to their officers.

And the final word needs to go to Ben who has really grasped the opportunity of using Twitter, “organisations need to see this as a means to bring in positive change in terms of the service they provide and a way of encouraging innovation.”

Amanda has more than 10 years experience in senior communications roles within the police service and is currently responsible for the Corporate Communications function at Greater Manchester Police.

Initially, trained as a journalist Amanda worked on local newspapers throughout the North
West of England before moving into public relations working for a number of public sector organisations.

She has led the communication team at Greater Manchester Police during some challenging times including the death of the former Chief Constable and numerous counter terrorism investigations. Amanda has been part of the Force’s work to improve community engagement and communication. She was also responsible for the development of the GMP Twitter Day activity in October 2010 where the Force published details of all calls received in a 24 hour period.