This is the first in a couple of posts that have been a long time coming. I’ve actually been waiting for the two to mesh so that I can at least get them posted in the same week because I believe that they actually compliment each other.
Maybe you know that I’m Manx – I’m proud of it and still follow a lot of what goes on with the Isle of Man. Naturally it was of great interest to me to see how the Isle of Man Constabulary (Isle of Man Police Department) is using Facebook to engage with their Public.
Inspector Derek Flint from the Isle of Man Constabulary was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about how the Constabulary is using Facebook and how it’s changing Policing on the Isle of Man.
I don’t do this often but here are the questions and answers, European spelling ‘n all :
TB: Who’s idea was it to reach out to the Manx public through Facebook? On what level was it decided?
DF: It was an idea I put forward, after an earlier exercise with Facebook. I had set up a page for the neighbourhood I was commanding, and it proved a great way of engaging the public. As this initiative was for the whole force, agreement was reached with the Command Team for it to go ahead.
TB: What has the response been like internally?
DF: Like anything new in the police, there was a degree of scepticism at first, and a worry that it would be more work. After literally 24 hours of going live, that view changed, and staff can now see the very real benefits.
TB: What has the response been like from the public?
DF: The public have been effusive. I have been really pleased with the overall response. As well as being a news update, people tell me that it has made a big difference in them being able to plan their travel properly.
TB: Who is it that is running the Facebook Feed? team? one person?
DF: The Control Room Sergeants have been updating the pages using the email functionality of Facebook. This means that people don’t have to be logged on accounts all the time. This automatically updates Twitter too. I deal with posting some of the larger items, as and when I see them as appropriate.
TB: What was the original idea behind the FB Page? has it evolved any? will it evolve any?
DF: The idea is just to get information out to the public in a timely fashion. This is why the pages aren’t interactive. I would like to see more use of social media in a parochial context in the neighbourhoods, as it is the way so many people communicate these days.
TB: Do you have a Social Media police within the constabulary that you’re adhering to?
DF: Yes we do. The policy has developed along with our use of this way of communicating, and remains under review.
Inspector Flint and the Constabulary evidently have a clear objective in mind and just like with any Social Media strategy it is great that they’re changing with the landscape and allowing their ideas to evolve.
The page is clearly labeled as a ‘Media Page’ and seen as a source for the media and general public to get their information, as it’s happening.
Is a community like the Isle of Man, where Emergency services is essentially run from one location, the dissemination of information from a single point to the entire populous is easy and well controlled.
It’s great to see how the public is reacting to posts on the Facebook wall too. There are Likes and Comments on nearly every post.
Yes, the majority of the posts seem to be road closures and RTCs (Road Traffic Collisions), but it’s what their public needs and is evidently working.
There is lots of room to grow though. There are currently 3700 followers on the page. Out of an 80,000 + person population, personally I’d like to see a better ratio of likes to prospective audience., But they’re growing.
Like Inspector Flint noted when he answered my questions, the Facebook wall is a marvelous way to get information out there about local traffic conditions so that anyone and everyone can plan their ride home accordingly. With the ease of access of Facebook on Mobile Devices, RSS updates, SMS updates and more there’s no reason why anyone should be missing any information.
I look forward to the Neighborhood Policing teams running their own pages. It would be great even if only for Traffic. A person travelling at one end of the Island may not need to know that there’s a road closed in Ramsey. Local traffic and incidents would relieve users of much of the … clutter… (for want of a better word) that happens on an Island wide stream.
Kudos to Inspector Flint and the Constabulary – keep it up!