West Midlands Police is a social media pioneer among the UK’s police forces. They recognised that as the number of accounts and amount of social media activity increased, that keeping track across a large number of accounts was a priority.
As early as 2009, it had redesigned its public website to integrate better with its social media activity, and was using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to build closer relationships with local communities.
In August 2011, the force had 20 Facebook and 79 Twitter accounts, representing the force as a whole, community teams, local policing units and special interest pages, including ‘Smithy’ the police dog.
Anyone could post on the WMP’s Facebook pages, but officers had to keep an eye on the pages for inappropriate comments or spamming links. In one case, the English Defence League posted dozens of links on WMP’s pages, effectively clogging the communication channel. Although officers monitored the pages and deleted or blocked inappropriate content or spam, WMP didn’t have the resource to monitor the pages manually around the clock.
The force also realised its actions were going to be discussed on social media, whether they were listening to the conversations or not. Given the huge volume of conversation, monitoring everything that was being said would have proved a daunting task.
“We started out with a handful of accounts and users, all within the comms team. As the number of accounts and amount of activity increased, keeping track of who was engaging and in what way became a priority. As the channel was becoming more popular, we knew we would have to increase the number of users with access to our accounts. As we work in shifts, we had to find a solution to stop the sharing of usernames and passwords.”
Stuart Davis, digital services manager at West Midlands Police.
With CrowdControlHQ, each authorised officer can post or tweet by logging in to the system, but the central communications team retains the passwords for all social media accounts. This eliminates the need to change passwords every two months. Tracking is easy, as each action delivered through the system is tagged with the username of the individual who actioned it. By plugging all social media networks into the CrowdControlHQ dashboard, the central communications team now has visibility over the entire posting and engagement activity and is able to drill down on chosen accounts or content.
By setting up keyword dictionaries, accounts are monitored constantly by the system and offensive or abusive content is either removed automatically or sent for review by key members of the team.
CrowdControlHQ’s Buzz monitor allows communications teams and officers engaged in social media to listen and respond directly to conversations across blogs, Facebook, Google+, news sites and Twitter. In a crisis situation, such as a terror alert or a natural disaster, social media is the fastest channel for mobilising the public. With CrowdControlHQ, messages can be pushed out at the same time across all channels.
CrowdControlHQ’s specialist team provided key support throughout the implementation. They helped map all of WMP’s requirements, setting up tiered permissions and access to accounts in a way that mirrors the forces organisational structure.
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