Saturday, August 08, 2009

Experienced Criminal Justice Professor looking for trend-setting police departments in need of free social media assistance

(not for me -- for my students)

Despite the economic challenges we are facing (or perhaps because of them), the growth of social media use by businesses and organizations continues. Many a company executive is being educated on why they need to blog, what good having a Facebook or LinkedIn account is, and what Tweeting (not Twittering) is.

The problem is, even if they do get it, most don't have the time.

If the marketing or public relations folks are able to convince the executive that having a social media strategy is important, there are two main options -- pay for it or get it for nothing.

Option 1 (paying) will likely start with adding responsibilities to someone who is already on the payroll. In a different economy, this position might be more likely to go to someone with training, but we have to make the ends meet, don't we?

Option 2 would entail finding an intern and trusting them with the reputation of the company. Not many executives are likely to be excited about this option -- even if the intern is in their bloodline.

In most cases, you get what you pay for, or at least you won't get more than what you pay for. Everyone on Facebook or Twitter is not an expert, and everyone who uses these tools successfully for their personal benefit is not necessarily qualified to do so for their company.

So what about the police? We've advocated the use of social media by police organizations to interact with the public before, and there have been some great examples of forward-thinking departments implementing strategies that admittedly don't clearly impact the community reputation of the department.

But there may be a solution.

I have, in any given month, a couple of hundred students in need of exposure to the workforce in the outside world in the profession they are interested in. Many of these are interested in criminal justice, yet almost all have a hard time getting internships. I think most criminal justice departments encounter the same problems.

So I am proposing that each criminal justice department contact each police department within a 500 mile radius of the university. I would suggest a 50 mile radius, but that would not adequately demonstrate the reach of the Internet, now would it?

Offer the police departments a chance to beta-test your 10 hand-picked social media police intern strategists. Set up a Facebook (or Ning) group and set strict guidelines for communication policy, to include a 2 month probationary period where posts have to be screened by a criminal justice professor on the collaboration site prior to presenting them to a department representative for approval. Once the probationary period is completed, the intern will still need to get department approval, but only needs to post a snapshot after the fact, along with a short summary of the logic and rationale if outside the established guidelines.

This process will serve as a test bed for more active departments in the social media space, and allow departments to see the benefits of interaction in the social space with minimal investment.

The primary responsibility of the Social Media Police Intern will be to promote the police department using a variety of social media such as Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace (if they are still around), Blogs, Yahoo!Groups, and related spaces as agreed by the faculty mentor and department representative.

The Intern will be responsible for maintaining the Twitter account with posts reflecting arrest trends, wanted persons, Amber Alerts, and other police information needing immediate public assistance. Approvals for following the department will be made according to pre-established guidelines and approved by the department representative.

The intern should maintain the department's Facebook Fan page, to include promoting events and monitoring communications, and informing the department representative of any problems exposed in the social media domain so the department can determine how to respond appropriately.

Monitoring of police-related communications (comments regarding the department or criminal activity in the jurisdiction) may also be included.

Intern Qualifications: The candidate should be someone with a mix of:

  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Effective written and oral communication skills
  • Able to work alone, while operating as an integral team member
  • Experience using social media in a non-business, personal setting
Interns are expected to work a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 20 hours each week. The schedule will remain flexible and can be adjusted based on the intern’s availability. These internships should be offered for a term of approximately 4 Months.

For more posts addressing the need for social media strategies for police departments, click here.

What do you think?