Are Social Media Strategies a waste of time?

There has been lots of discussions recently online about the need for a social media strategy for organisations, particularly in the public sector. I remain unconvinced – yes an organisation needs some guidance and possibly a policy for use of social media tools, but is there a need for a strategy as well?

I wrote the policy for Lincolnshire Police’s use of social media (boiled down to a few words the policy is ‘get on with it, but think first’) and some guidance which covers some less obvious pitfalls (when to delete posts, issues around evidence and intelligence, copyright awareness and permissions for use of images which identify individuals for example). I kept these short, simple and relevant to police audiences. What I didn’t do is write a strategy for the use of social media.

After all we have no strategy for police officers and staff to adhere to when talking to members of the public in other ways. What we do have are three very clear priorities, which all staff work to (protecting the public, making communities safer and improving our services) and a set of principles that all staff work to, whether dealing with the public or with colleagues (this goes by the mnemonic PRIDE – Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Dedication and Empathy). I am unclear what else a strategy for social media would add – as with all our actions the use of social media should aim to move us towards our priorities, and use of social media tools should reflect PRIDE. Another strategy would just add bureaucracy in my view.


Bobby Bear

Bobby Bear checking his Twitter account...

Just for clarity let me make it clear that when using social media for a specific purpose, then some clear outcomes and expectations are a good idea. Lincolnshire police have considered how best to use social media for specific major incidents, to promote our children’s mascot Bobby Bear, and are currently promoting Operation NOVA (No to Violence and Abuse) through blogging and Twitter/Facebook posts from our guest sober student from Lincoln University. The tactical approach and outcomes from this were considered in advance. Did I want to add another strategy for all of these activities? No.


Think I am wrong – post below and tell me why.

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7 Responses to Are Social Media Strategies a waste of time?

  1. You make an interesting argument, but I have to disagree. I think that looking at social media from a strategic perspective can make all of the difference in the world in that it can lead to more diverse tactics and more genuine police engagement over time. For example, looking at social media from a strategic perspective could lead an organization to integrate SM in its overall reputation management approach. In turn, this could result in novel community enagagement tactics designed to generate content for social media dissemination.

    • Philip Knox says:

      Surely social media is a tool to be used as part of a specific delivery strategy rather than requiring a specific strategy in and of itself? If you have an engagement strategy then social media would be a tactical option within that strategy, if you have a confidence or visibility strategy then social media will be part of it. We need to remember that as a sPolice Service the use of social media is not an objective, it is a tool we use to reduce crime, detect crime and build community confidence.

  2. The difficulty that I have in commenting on your Blog is that I do not believe that we are necessarily agreed on what constitutes a Social Media Strategy.A wise man once said that one persons Strategy is another persons Tactics.
    The Policy one liner is also open to question “get on with it” is alright if all of the relevant participants are agreed on what “it” means.Furthermore the exhortation to think first is fine except when the thinker is merely rearranging the prejudices in his/her mind,a common failing in practice.

  3. Polleetickle says:

    strategy or tactics? who cares.

    Isn’t fighting crime what Policing is about? So lets get back to being on the street. This would serve; raised visible presence, heightened public interaction, updated knowledge of vicinity.

    Someone please explain the rationale behind the Police using social media.

  4. Claire says:

    I think police should definitely use social media. Many of us spend quite a bit of time online, and if we receive good police advice via a retweet or a popular facebook pic, then that’s not a bad thing.

    Some people are a bit scared of/hostile towards the police, so social media can be used to fight against that.

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