Simon Guilfoyle is a serving Police Inspector and systems thinker who is passionate about doing the right thing in policing and writes an entertaining blog.
Two years ago I didn’t really know what twitter was.
I eventually took the plunge because a handful of people at work had twitter accounts and I wanted to see what it was all about.
As a Sector Inspector at Wolverhampton at the time, I was responsible for policing a large geographical area, so Twitter offered another means of communication with the community, especially those who don’t have the time or inclination to attend ‘traditional’ community meetings. That was my original plan anyway…
The human behind the uniform
What actually happened was that I quickly discovered twitter is populated by a wide range of really interesting people and this drew me in, way beyond the limited scope I’d envisaged.
Very quickly I was being followed by (and following) a huge variety of people worldwide.
I discovered it was good to be a bit light-hearted and show the human side of the person behind the uniform, rather than churn out sterile ‘corporate’ tweets all the time.
One of my proudest early twitter moments was when two members of the public whom I’d never met turned up at my police station to donate £10 towards the Movember charity effort on account of them talking to me on twitter and admiring my terrible moustache.
Pictures of this hairy abomination can still be found at various stages of growth by doing an image search for Simon Guilfoyle on Google.
(Warning – these images may upset small children or those of a nervous disposition.)
Eventually, my work circumstances changed and my ‘official’ twitter account closed down, but I had taken to social media and felt that I almost ‘knew’ many of the people on it, so I chose to open a personal account.
This also enabled me to adopt a slightly different slant – the content was less police-orientated, and focused more on the systems thinking side of things.
It also gave me the opportunity to post pictures of my chilli plants, drone on about my varied (and often dreadful) taste in music, and chat about ‘normal’ stuff, like going to the pub and cooking curries.
One thing I particularly like about twitter is that it affords the previously unheard of opportunity to interact with people at all levels in police forces, as well as those from totally different backgrounds, locations and viewpoints.
I’ve had some great debates with a range of extremely interesting people, without the formalities inherent in hierarchies or social constructs.
I also like the transient nature of twitter – you can flit in and out of it as you wish.
The 140 character limit stops me from blathering on too much, and it’s convenient – I will tweet whilst eating, in a lift, or waiting for the photocopier to warm up.
This is why I don’t buy the ‘you should be catching criminals instead of tweeting’ line.
Also, it proves I can multitask (to some extent).
Twitter is a blogger’s best friend
In addition to this, twitter is ideal for circulating my blog to a potentially huge worldwide audience, and very quickly too.
Furthermore, I attribute the early success of my book Intelligent Policing almost entirely to the domino effect of twitter comments, retweets and conversations.
Several people have also posted photos of their copy of the book, which I have to say makes me feel very proud and humble at the same time.
I always try and reply to mentions on my ‘@’ page and love it when my random rants about targets are retweeted or spark debate. I guess it means people get where I’m coming from.
Recently a series of Guilfoyle-related hashtags have also appeared, which always make me chuckle, such as #hailguilfoyle and at the other end of the scale, the tongue-in-cheek #stopguilfoylenow.
Humour is one of my favourite things about twitter, so long may this continue!
This is the 46th 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 servicewhich includes an individualised profile of your Twitter style.