Quote of the week
“At the Queensland Police Service, we will continue to innovate with social media and other online tools.”
— Kym Charlton, Queensland Police Service Media and Public Affairs branch
Everyone agrees social media is important. And the temptation for government organizations is to get involved with Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools because, well, everyone else is doing it…
But in Australia, the Queensland Police Service has shown that social media can be helpful in a crisis, both to send out and manage the information flow in order to promote public safety.
The crisis that became part of a recent QPS case study began in December 2010. It was the worst disaster in 90 years, a series of natural disasters that began in that month and continued into early February.
The Service had launched accounts with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in May 2010 to build a two-way conversation with the public and “develop an online community of followers before a disaster occurred.”
The experiment followed the Mumbai terrorist attacks in which social media had played an important role without the authorities being able to manage or benefit from it.
By November 2010, seven months into the trial, there were 8000 “likes” on the QPS Facebook page and 1,000 Twitter followers.
In early February, by the end of the crisis, the number of Facebook “likes” had gone up to 180,000. The police used social media as a disaster clearinghouse for information, posting material quickly, Tweeting from news conferences, and using streaming video.
Organizationally, the QPS seems to have understood the nature of social media and decentralized decision-making on what to post. As the case study notes, the “team was trusted to use their judgment.”
Other lessons learned about its success: they had high-level leadership support and the benefit of a seven-month trial run from May to November.
From the perspective of the QPF, the experiment was a success because their sites became a “trusted hub” for information, thus (among other things) allowing the Force to kill rumour and misreporting before it became dangerous “fact.”