I started to tweet unofficially purely because I felt I had something to say about the role of the police service as part of our extended mental health system. I had worked for three years on mental health issues for West Midlands Police as well as the NPIA and ACPO, but had come to social media quite late as a potential vehicle for information and interaction.
A dialogue, not a broadcast
I enjoy Twitter as a conversation, rather than as a promotion platform.
I see various organisations and people tweeting a one way broadcast of corporate ideas and messages and sometimes think that it is missing the point.
One crucial aspect for me me is the interaction with others about my subject area and theirs, developing overlaps and dialogue.
This is not to make a point merely about style.
If one looks at police accounts generally, the more successful, the more widely distributed, the more highly valued accounts are those with a human element that interact, sometimes with a bit of humour! I do love @SolihullPolice even thought I don’t live or work there.
So it is by advising police officers on aspects of law that affect jobs they have dealt with; by interacting with other professionals about the role / powers of the police at mental health related incidents that my network has built up.
Most importantly, I have taken a lot of positive feelings away from interacting with patients and service users about their rights and the role of the police – both in police custody and more generally.
When emails come in from people expressing thanks because our twitter conversation has helped them understand why police did or did not do certain things and it has put their mind at rest about something; or where they have gone away and pushed to exercise their rights – few things are better.
I have also learned a lot by ‘listening’ to people talk about their view of the police and their professional roles.
Arising from such conversations it has been good to see networks building, especially inter-professional networks: always a warm glow when a mental health professional or patient from one area starts following their local police officers and vice versa.
I can name a few decent relationships that have developed locally in this way.
I have also built up some key supporters on Twitter who have helped me: Chief Constable Simon Cole, @CCLeicsPolice, has tolerated me unofficially invading his ACPO area and promoted the blog for which I’m really grateful (you can read why Leicestershire’s Chief Constable tweets here). My own force’s senior officers too.
Outside the service, @DavidAllenGreen who is the legal editor of the New Statesman, is a great supporter who has been key to getting my work into new networks.
Blogging and Tweeting
In addition to tweeting for its own sake, Twitter is by far the best platform through which to launch my blog.
I get more referrals to the blog from Twitter than any other source and am often stunned at how widely articles can travel through this medium.
I have found advantage in being willing to invest time in tweeting as subjects are trending, sometimes tweeting blog articles of relevance to the trends, sometimes just tweeting with the hashtags.
This can sometimes be inconvenient because things don’t necessarily trend to coincide with my professional or personal life, but in terms of spreading a message or contributing to an online debate, timing is everything.
It is by being relevant that I have picked up followers from outside normal and natural networks and these have included some significant followers who have further broadcast the work I’m doing.
My blog has recently picked up a couple of awards, including the Mind Digital Media Award but it is due without doubt to actively investing in tweeting that the blog has become known and I am often able to answer common police / mental health queries by referring people back to it and Twitter is, for me, the most useful and adaptive social medium through which to do it.
This is the 32nd post in the criminal justice/legal Why I tweet series. Read the others here.
Check out Russell’s half day courses on Tweeting for work/business: