Monitoring our @GoodPracticeWAO Twitter account is a daily activity for each team member, with the aim of sharing interesting content as widely as possibly.
On 31 October 2013, it was my turn. Early on in the afternoon, a couple of tweets from Gwent Police caught my eye with unusual hasthag of #whougonnacall. I started following the hashtag with great interest. I followed up with a telephone chat with Emma Chapron, Marketing Communications Manager with Gwent Police a few days later and learnt of their series of twitter campagins to promote their support servcies.
Here’s what Emma had to say about their Twitter campaign
#accessallareas to Gwent Police
Who are we?
Over the last few years, the number of followers to the Gwent Police Twitter and Facebook accounts has grown. As of January 2014, we are now speaking on a daily basis to 39,800 followers on Facebook and 19,900 followers on Twitter. The majority of our communication focuses on updates from the 23 neighbourhood policing teams in Gwent, as well as appeals for information and news about incidents. In reality we are only providing a snapshot of what Gwent Police deals with – our support services are rarely mentioned, and sometimes it can seem as though all we ever deal with is parking issues and anti-social behaviour!
We are also aware that our Facebook page reaches a larger audience and our interaction with this audience is often more frequent and in depth, when compared to our Twitter audience.
So we set out with a couple of objectives:
1. Increase the number of followers on our Gwent Police Twitter account.
2. Improve understanding of how less visible departments of the police operate, and what they do.
3. Improve engagement with our social media followers.
What did we do?
We came up with the idea to run a number of targeted days on Twitter called #accessallareas which aimed to focus on areas of policing that we don’t communicate about on a regular basis. We suspended our usual Tweeting and Facebooking for these days, with the exception of communicating about any major incidents.
We always started with internal communications – making sure that our officers and staff were the first to know about our planned events.
We promoted the events ahead of time to our Twitter and Facebook followers, partner agencies and the media. Lots of partners retweeted our messages to help promote the days to even wider audiences.
The main focus for the updates was on our Twitter account, but we also provided summaries of the activity on Facebook throughout the events as well.
Our first event in May 2013 focussed on our two Custody Units in Ystrad Mynach and Newport Central police stations. We started with Custody as the vast majority of the public will thankfully never see the inside of a cell apart from on television. So we focussed on things that we’d want to know – what does the inside of a cell actually look like, what food do detainees get given, how long can we hold someone in custody, does everyone get drug tested etc. We based one communications officer in each custody unit from 7am to 7pm – they tweeted brief details about every person who was booked into these units during that time, as well as the planned tweets about how the units operate, all under the hashtag #behindbars.
For our second event in June 2013, we went out with our roads policing team. Again we put together a list of pre-planned tweets about the types of things we thought the public would be interested in. We then went out with a patrol car between 8am and 5pm for the day – tweeting live about any incidents they responded to. Unfortunately it was a quiet day, which meant our feed wasn’t as busy or interesting as we hoped it would be.
Our third and final event of the year followed our Force Communications Suite (where we receive 101 and 999 calls) on Halloween – one of the busiest nights of the year for the suite. Again we prepared a number of tweets about how the suite works, and the volume of calls that it deals with. As we knew it would be a busy night, we decided to separate it into two parts. Between 3pm and 6pm, we sent out our pre-prepared tweets – we tied horror film titles into these tweets to keep our messages seasonal! Then from 6pm to midnight, we tweeted about every Halloween related call that we received, from the throwing of eggs and fireworks to house parties that had got out of hand.
What did we achieve?
During our last #whougonnacall Twitter event on Halloween, we received over 1600 new followers within the week, almost 2000 retweets and 900 favourites. This was by far the most successful of the three events – we had learnt lessons from the previous days and made sure that this one was more public focussed. We have managed to maintain the majority of these followers.
We had high levels of interaction on the night, with lots of residents contacting us to say they couldn’t believe some of the calls that we have to deal with. This met our objective to show the public things that they wouldn’t usually see.
We received wide media coverage for the event including on BBC Radio Wales, www.walesonline.com, Western Mail, Gwent Gazette, Rhymney Valley Express and other local papers.
What lessons did we learn?
We learnt a few really valuable lessons along the way.
– Our social media followers are most active in the evening. Whilst we can’t staff this on a regular basis, it is useful to change our working patterns for these events, to ensure we are engaging with as wide an audience as possible.
– Humour goes a long way! Whilst this isn’t always appropriate with some of the subjects that we are communicating about, in the right setting a tongue in cheek comment or (hopefully) witty hashtag encouraged people to share our tweets.
– Respond to all comments / questions if possible. Our Twitter page went into slight meltdown during our #whougonnacall event, but those people that we managed to respond to seemed to really appreciate it.
– Only tweet about things that you think the public will be interested in. It’s not a tick box exercise.
– Plan logistics carefully and make sure you have enough staff working to monitor and respond to the messages.
– Publicise the events as much as possible beforehand – both on and off channel – and look to your partners to help spread the messages.
– Co-ordinate your events with busy operational periods, particularly if you are tweeting live about what your organisation is doing. Our Roads Policing Team said they couldn’t believe how quiet it was on the day we chose to follow them! We knew however that Halloween is always busy for the Force Communications Suite, so it was a sure bet.