Since 1874, the Kansas City Police Department has been serving the citizens of the Kansas City metro area. During the S.M.C.K.C. Breakfast on April 6, K.C.P.D. Public Relations Specialist Sarah Boydpresented how K.C.M.O. police are upholding its mission through the use of social media.
“It’s all about humanizing” Boyd mentioned when describing their approach behind the modern way K.C.P.D. uses social media. The motivation to connect with citizens they serve by creating a more realistic and accessible representation of their organization through a diverse use of social media has given K.C.P.D. the advantage of cultivating relationships, and not just fans.
The benefit of embracing social media is probably obvious for most companies: the possibility of connecting with potential customers, expanding your brand online, etc. However as an organization that has a long established identity in the community and without the need to sell a product, introducing social media to K.C.P.D. was a challenge for Boyd. Social media use in an organization such as K.C.P.D. which takes their service seriously, presenting how bidirectional media can support their mission and not just expose them to idle ridicule was a point in Boyd’s approach social media. As Boyd mentioned, “Empower don’t always vent”.
Currently 2,537 “Likes” on Facebook, 9,234 Twitter followers, and one of the premier police departments on Pinterest, K.C.P.D. is a great example of an organization making the most of social media platforms.
Connecting (not selling) to your community
“Sarah Boyd from @kcpolice on their involvement in social media: ‘The point is to build relationships.’ #smckc” – Tyler Hillsman @thillsman
Why use social media? The principle difference with organizations like K.C.P.D. and business-centered companies is the motivation to connect, and not sell, to people. When social media is used to cultivate your company’s connections as a means of outreach, the opportunity for building relationships is presented.
Beginning with a blogand then expanding to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, Boyd discussed how the evolution of their social media grew out of their want to communicate. K.C.P.D. upholds safety and order in the community, therefore using social media empowered that purpose by making them more approachable to the community they serve. Social media has the potential to make organizations more transparent, this can be daunting to most people, let alone an organization that makes others safety and confidentiality their priority. However Boyd approached the use of social media as a tool to serve the community by sharing beneficial information that people may not know. For example, using Facebook to inform people about upcoming safety seminars or Twitter to get (and produce) feedback from their followers.
Producing valuable content with your audience has been Boyd’s approach to social media. Implementing this idea with K.C.P.D., naturally, was a long process at first. Becoming social online may result in organizational change, whether in attitude or structure, however the pay off could be more beneficial than not. As Boyd mentioned “It’s all about humanizing”.
“ ‘We can't take ourselves too seriously because everyone takes us too seriously.’ -Sarah Boyd, @KCPolice #SMCKC” –Angie Pedersen @AngiePedersen
Developing an objective for your social media use will help drive your content production online. As with K.C.P.D., Boyd discussed how people already takes them seriously, so it’s important to them not to take themselves too serious if they are going to foster relationships online. Boyd made a good point that social media isn’t about one organization controlling what people say and do on their public profiles pages, it’s actually about relinquishing control. “Haters”, as Boyd said, are going to hate but there are fans that have positive comments.
Being social online is more about trust, not control. Building relationships through online interactions allow organizations to better connect with people than if they only used social media as a unidirectional means of communication. Humanizing your organization cultivates more interaction since it gives users the opportunity to have a conversation rather than just being the recipients of the information you want them to know.
Boyd mentioned that they use social media as means to connect, not to necessarily track crime tips. However when there’s a social buzz around your brand (users interacting with producer) the relationship that’s built can be widely beneficial. For example, K.C.P.D.’s Twitter presence helped them find a missing person and Facebook as led them to people who have tagged them Facebook posts about “out running the cops” and other valuable information.
Having a clear objective of connecting with citizens to inform them about safety programs, events, etc. makes K.C.P.D. an approachable online entity which allows them to enhance their RL objective of promoting safety.
Using platforms differently
“@kcpolice started using social media to increase approachability. Now has Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a blog. #smckc” –Alisha Templeton @AlishaBethT
As a consumer, knowing an organization puts the same information on all of their profiles decreasing their chances of having a lot of page views across the board. Why go purposely go to a company’s Twitter profile just to read the same thing they posted on their Facebook? However that’s not to say it’s not good to link to the same information, especially if it’s important, it’s just how the information is presented is the key. Like a product, having information to share is one thing, knowing how to share it is a different matter.
When it comes to producing likeable content on social media Boyd made the point that she “didn’t want the same stuff on everything”. When building relationships with face-to-face interaction, would you say the same thing the same way over and over? Probably not. Utilizing the broad potential of social media can play a major role in your organization’s success online.
As stated previously, Boyd described how their social media interaction grew from a blog to becoming one of (if not the) premier police department using Pinterest because their usage changed. Boyd saw that Twitter was more conducive for sending out quick snippets of information than a blog. When sharing multimedia, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest’s visual interface allows for wide user interaction. Boyd mentioned how one of their reoccurring posts is “old photo Friday”. Every Friday they post old K.C.P.D. photos ranging from a police wagon to a ‘40s breathalyzer test. K.C.P.D. also currently has 505 followers on their K.C.P.D. Fuzzy Friends Pinterest board.
YouTube video shared during Boyd's presentation. Currently has
These are just some of the examples of how K.C.P.D. is making their social media more diverse. Using Facebook and Pinterest to post related multimedia content, and blogging and Twitter to send out current community-centered information, however Boyd mentioned being present on social media outlets may create some minor random comments. When describing how one comment was to extent that K.C.P.D. should spend more time catching criminals than posting photos on Facebook, Boyd wisely replied “Rest assured, the person who is posting on Pinterest is not the same person solving murders”. Social media is a tool to interaction with your target followers, some feedback is helpful but not always depending on their motivation.
K.C.P.D. is now in the process of creating a mobile app to further their connectivity. Comment below, what would you like to see in their mobile app?
Photo credit: Thanks to Lynsay Holst, Public Relations Specialist with K.C.P.D., for supplying multiple photos from the event.
Other tweets I took away from the event:
“With Twitter, blogs, Facebook & even Pinterest, @kcpolice becoming more approachable, making connections in community #smckc” –Jason Gertzen @jginkc
“Sarah Boyd from @kcpolice: ‘It's kind of amazing how dumb people [who post about outrunning the police on social media] are.’ #smckc” –Tyler Hillsman @thillsman
“I would like to see "America's dumbest criminals" social media edition. #smckc” –Andrea Garcia @AKGarcia331
“Thank you @KCPolice for the presentation at this morning's #SMCKC Breakfast. Your insights to social media, community and public service!” –Sarah Wood @hidama