Many departments have great Facebook pages. They’re viewed as excellent examples of law enforcement’s use of social media, and can form as a baseline for those building their social media program from scratch.
Here are two such departments enjoying success. Take from them what you think you can implement for your own department.
El Monte PD: Using, Short, Engaging, 70/30 Posts
Some departments find their niche with a certain platform. That’s definitely the case with the El Monte Police Department in Southern California and their use of Facebook. In just a matter of months, the El Monte Police Department has taken their Facebook page to new levels.
With the support and trust of department administrators and supervisors, Detective Arlen Castillo has raised the page’s popularity from 2,700 likes to 4,102 likes, since taking it over in March of 2014 — a 52 percent increase in just three months.
Castillo admits she only knew the basics of Facebook when she took over the page as a member of the department’s Community Policing Unit. After doing some research and speaking with other social media managers in her area, Castillo started to create a phenomenal Facebook page for her department.
At first glance, you can see a good use of photos and frequent postings. But if you look a little bit further into her methodology, you will see Detective Castillo has made pretty much every post a “70/30” post.
What’s a “70/30” post?
Nobody wants to read posts in which the only thing you do is brag about how great your department is. People are online to discover new things and become engaged in new topics, and their time is limited. So, make 70 percent of your agency’s posts about topics your followers find interesting, and 30 percent of your posts about your department.
Castillo’s posts show her department out in the community doing great work, while at the same time covering topics which interest the people in the community.
Furthermore, many of Castillo’s posts are extremely short. Even the longer ones are just under 100 words. Castillo has not only found a way to use the 70/30 formula, but keep her readers engaged by posting just the “right amount” information. Remember, this generation wants their information immediately with little effort to get it.
Brimfield PD: Leading with a Different Style
About 2,300 miles east of El Monte is the town of Brimfield, Ohio. Under the leadership of Chief David Oliver, the Brimfield Police Department’s Facebook page has an awe-inspiring 152,000 likes. That’s for a town of about 8,000 citizens!
Chief Oliver runs the page in a manner pretty different from Castillo, and quite frankly, many departments. The chief simply calls it like it is. He openly admits he doesn’t get along with the criminal element and he occasionally makes fun of them.
He also has a very unique way of starting each day with a “Good Morning Everyone…” posting on Facebook. The post has a couple of paragraphs of birthday wishes, historical information and some recap of the night’s events with the police department.
There have been many interviews and articles written about the chief and his online “voice,” including one in which a criminal justice professor wasn’t impressed with the chief’s success. Of course, we all know there’s always going to be “that guy” out there rendering a reckless opinion.
The reason why I mention the professor is to prove the point that Chief Oliver may not be doing his job in accordance with the professor’s recommendations. He also may not be keeping posts short and to the point. But Chief Oliver is definitely doing it in a way that works for him and his community. Furthermore, he’s doing what works to achieve worldwide engagement.
A valid point could be made that with a town of 8,000 residents, Brimfield PD’s Facebook page has lost its focus as a resource for Brimfield’s residents and business owners.
But when people around the world learn about things like Brimfield PD’s “Cops and Bobbers” event, day of free fishing for community kids, many people simply say, “I want to follow him.”
The fact is, Brimfield Police Department’s successful page is bringing visitors to their community for local events, thus helping the economy. The chief is teaching the law enforcement community about relationships through his example of small town policing.
Castillo’s and Oliver’s Secret Recipes
How are these two totally different pages having such positive success? The common denominator is that each is managing their Facebook page in a way that works for their department, their community, and themselves.
If you are seeing positive engagement and interaction, and you’re department’s great work is being told in a manner which reflects well on the entire law enforcement community, then you have the recipe.
Everyone involved in a police department social media program — from administrators and supervisors to your social media managers — needs to know that your particular recipe is not going to come out just right in the beginning. It’s a work in progress until you find the strategy that best works for your agency and your community.