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The proliferation of technological devices coupled with the increased Internet penetration means that conversations in every sphere of human lives will increasingly take place online over the coming decade. One of the most effective community-centric approaches for police departments is appropriating Facebook to connect and communicate with residents. However, building a consistent presence, voice, brand, and identity may prove daunting, especially if there is no definite individual who is responsible for the social media platform. This paper develops a comprehensive plan and advances useful recommendations for developing a Facebook presence for the City Police Department. Analysis indicates that in order to optimize Facebook presence the virtual police department responsible for the Facebook pages should be active and ensure consistency in response, tone, topics, and overall community policy.
The first core undertaking is setting on a social media strategy. The City Police Department officers privy to the project should first decide on the station’s story, including the objectives of the social media interaction, the primary and secondary audience of its Facebook updates, and how to connect with the audience (Stuart, 2013). The primary objectives are to encourage community policing, issue emergency alerts, conduct investigations, and undertake data mining.
Creating the Page
After determining the social media strategy, the next stage involves creating the Facebook page. It is a simple step that only takes minutes to complete. Any police officer in the department can be delegated the task of creating the City Police Department’s official Facebook page. Since the police department is a large one, it will be prudent to have two Facebook pages as shall be explicated later on in the paper.
Develop a Posting Plan
Developing a posting plan is probably the most important step in implementing the Facebook presence strategy. This stage is crucial as it entails the development of a social media policy explicating who and how one may use the official social media channels on behalf of the City Police Department (Trottier, 2012). It also involves the determination of the number of Facebook accounts the City Police Department will maintain and the personnel who will be responsible for managing them. Due to the wide range of objectives that the department seeks to fulfill, it is prudent to create two Facebook accounts.
The first account should be operated by the personnel from the dispatch and communications office of the support services department. The dispatch officials are aware of the ongoing activities in the community and are better suited to enhance the reputation of the police department and establish a rapport with the residents (Heal, 2015). The Facebook account will have updates on community policing initiatives and emergency alerts (Leipelt, 2013). It will offer tips, register relevant complaints from the community, notify the residents when there are road closures, police chases, and impending catastrophes among other incidences. The account will also be responsible for disseminating and receiving emergency-related information, for example, concerning suspicious activities or incidents where shots have been fired (Heal, 2015). Its core mission would be to create a sustainable, balanced, and interactive platform for communication between the police and the community.
The second Facebook account will be manned by the personnel from the community response and enforcement unit of the investigations department. Their work already entails social policing. Their main task will be to disseminate investigation-related information, such as images of wanted criminals and missing persons details. The personnel in the unit will take turns to monitor responses and to undertake data mining by checking the trends and chatter that may be of interest to police officers, including cyber bullying (Leipelt, 2015). The chief of police and his deputy should make regular monthly contributions to the Facebook page on a range of topics of community importance.
Regardless of the unit managing the accounts, the Facebook updates need to have a personal and authentic voice. The posting officer should identify himself or herself when posting the updates (Heal, 2015). Engaging the supporters is vital in facilitating a two-way communication. The officers should strive to answer at least five or six comments in every post to prompt or encourage dialogue (Trottier, 2012). The officers should also be friendly and establish an excellent rapport with their audience to enhance the connection. The Redwood City Police Department exemplifies this by going to an extent of simply wishing the residents a good day each morning, wishing happy birthdays to those who are celebrating, and even offering security tips the supporters can use in their day to day life.
Cross-Promote and Analyze Performance
The last stage would be to cross-promote the pages to enhance their presence through increased awareness. The Facebook pages should tag and share each other’s posts when applicable. It will encourage viral sharing which augments the Facebook pages presence (Stuart, 2013). It is also worthwhile to monitor and analyze the key metrics offered by Facebook analysis platform. It will give insights on the sections of the population that like the content provided, how the page is growing, and the total reach of the page among others. The metrics will be invaluable in refining and tailoring the content and format of the Facebook posts to optimize interaction and its inherent benefits.
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In conclusion, it is evident that there are many advantages that will accrue to the City Police Department from creating a functional Facebook page. Through the Facebook page, the department will augment its policing efforts, connect with the immediate community, and benefit each other through real-time sharing of actionable information. The plan to acquire a Facebook page involves determining the social media strategy, creating the Facebook page, cross-promoting, and analyzing its metrics to determine its effectiveness. The personnel from dispatch and the community response teams are better placed to manage the official Facebook accounts. The officers in these units will take turns to manage them. Crucially, the pages should be active, at least during the day, and remain consistent in tone and mode of operation to encourage dialogue and other forms of interactions with the immediate community.