Amanda Coleman is head of communications for Greater Manchester police and hosts her own blog on comms issues.
Back in 2010 I didn’t have email access at home and my mobile was an old Nokia just used for answering and making phone calls.
I had heard about Twitter but didn’t really understand why I would want to connect with people I don’t know to talk about things that were happening.
I was lucky enough to have a friend who spent a bit of time telling me that social networks were going to be really important in the future.
He was right and I am grateful for his comments.
I got broadband, got on Twitter and I have never looked back.
I am definitely now a Twitter obsessive.
I regularly check for any mentions and look for interesting items that I can retweet or highlight to followers as well as friends and work colleagues.
When I tweet, it is like picking up the phone and having a conversation.
When I retweet it is like saying ‘look at this, this is interesting’.
When I mention people it is saying ‘hey, I was thinking of you’.
Twitter has given me a way to contact people with similar interests, with similar views or doing similar roles. It means I can ask other people for views, advice or to tell me about what they have uncovered.
Obviously some of it can be rumour or inaccurate but I have learnt so much from what other people have shared.
The more I use Twitter, the more I find it has to offer.
It becomes a window into other worlds and has expanded my horizons beyond the UK into Europe and America. There is no easier way to connect with police officers in America who are working on similar issues and problems to see what I can learn.
Most conversations are positive and constructive but I have had to accept that some people will always take a negative approach. They will want to be abusive or offensive even though they don’t really know you.
The key is to never take these comments to heart, as they can’t be personal when people don’t know you.
Twitter for Police
I had already been investing in tweeting from a personal perspective when we were developing the social media strategy for Greater Manchester Police.
A key principle for Twitter use was that it had to be a conversation and not just broadcasting messages.
When we did the 24-hour Twitter day in October 2010 we provided details of every incident and while that may seem to be broadcast we tried to have conversations about what was happening.
Since then we have worked to train more than 150 officers who are now using Twitter to engage and have conversations with the communities they serve.
This move has been part of the transformation that has been taking place to create a more social business that is able to involve people in lots of different ways.
Twitter has been able to help involve officers in communities in the same way that it has allowed me to get networking. When it goes well it is a hugely liberating and engaging way of discussing issues.
When it goes wrong it can be career ending.
The simple points to remember are:
- Never tweet in anger or hate
- Good manners should exist in online communities the same as offline
- If you haven’t got something good to say perhaps it is better not to say anything at all
- If you have learnt something new then why not share it
- Make all your interactions positive ones
- Know what you are doing and why you are doing it
Remember that what you tweet or retweet is a reflection not just of you but of the organisation that you work for.
Make sure you do it right.
This is the 44th post in the criminal justice/legal Why I tweet series. Read the others here.
If you’d like to develop your tweeting skills, check out my online Twitter coaching service which includes an individualised profile of your Twitter style.