There is one truly brilliant thing about Harrogate copper @hotelalpha9 on Twitter.
It’s not the fact PC Ed Rogerson has a truly cool Hawaii Five O sounding name online.
It’s not even because the police are using social media. Although, that is great.
What’s really brilliant, is that he has succeeded in putting a human touch on what is by definition a large organisation.
In North Yorkshire there are 1,500 police officers serving 750,000 people. @hotelalpha9 is able to connect with his beat particular brilliantly.
Here is an example: “Residents of Camwell Terrace – there’s a meeting for you at 10am tomorrow at St Andrews Church. Let’s make your street the best it can be.”
“@annicrosby Hi, I’m following you as I saw you location is ‘Harrogate’. I follow anybody from Harrogate as I want to communicate better.”
“Just dealt with some criminal damage. Paint thrown over a car.”
It’s stuff specific to a small area. It’s in effect hyperlocal blogging for an organisation.
The debate about whether or not police should use digital is a short one (answer: yes).
On that topic there is an inspiring and groundbreaking blog by Chief Inspector Mark Payne of West Midlands Police – on Twitter as @CIPayneWMPolice – that deserves a special mention: Police and social media: Why are we waiting?
But what it really opens up is how best to use this stuff to connect.
By all means have a central presence with a corporate logo on.
However, in Twitter 2.0 shouldn’t we start putting the individual to the fore?
If we call a council, government – or a big company for that matter – you are often met with a name when you ring or write. Why not do that with social media too?
Recently, when Walsall Council contacted a protest group on Facebook an officer set up a dedicated work profile to make contact. It wasn’t a logo. It was a real person that made that connection. On behalf of the council.
So, isn’t there a case the closer we get to an organisation hyperlocal blogging we start allowing the individual to be the organisation’s face? They are in real life over the phone and at other contact points. Why not in social media too?
This may well create new headaches. Would staff be prepared for the potential for brickbats, for example?
How about if they leave?
Then there is the usual ‘what if they say bad things to us?’
But let’s not forget that these dilemmas also apply offline too.
A possible three tier organisational model for Twitter and other social media platforms:
1. THE CORPORATE VOICE WITH NAMED INDIVIDUAL. Eg @anycouncil. Biog: news from Any Council updated by Darren firstname.lastname@example.org. Content: general tweets.
2. THE SERVICE AREA. Eg @anycouncil_libraries Biog: updated by Kim. Kim@any.gov.uk. Content: niche tweets from a specific service area. More specific info for fans of that subject. Eg author visits, reminders to take out a holiday book.
3. THE HYPERLOCAL INDIVIDUAL Eg @artscentreguy Biog: Bob from Any Arts Centre. Content: More personal updates from an individual first and foremost who just happens y’know to work for a council. Eg. Twitpics of rehearsals, behind the scenes shots and listings info.