When to tweet

Twitter and social media are invaluable tools for police, firefighters, and businesses alike. Social media can establish your brand and help you interact directly with customers and constituents. It is useful for research and investigation.

And it can also freeze a special moment in time…

After a long week in April 2013, Mayor Menino’s staff captured a pivotal moment that helped bring closure to a tired city.

Like all other forms of communication, you can make social media mean something, or it can be used against you, as you’ll see here.




When NOT to Tweet

Social media can be used for a lot of good. It can help you, and it has become a vital tool of a public relations campaign. PR firms now incorporating social media into their services, and is driving rates up (or at least keeping rates the same for some PR agencies.)

But with the rise in social media comes the rise of inappropriate or overuse of social media.

Take this example.

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Pop star Justin Bieber was arrested in Miami recently. Florida has very transparent criminal process laws. Booking photos are posted online for anyone who gets arrested; it’s standard procedure in every arrest. However, the Miami Beach Police Department took it too far when it started tweeting a play-by-play of Bieber’s arrest and booking. The department even Tweeted the arrest report, page by page.

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There can be some discussion about the merits of Tweeting out police reports, but it sends the wrong message to treat a celebrity arrest with any more urgency than a non-celebrity arrest. It raises questions of selective law enforcement, and it’s created a backlash for the department, as Twitter users responded questioningly.

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This is an example of when NOT to Tweet. Just because you can use social media to broadcast extra details about an arrest to generate publicity, doesn’t mean you should.

In Florida, booking photos and police reports are solid public records. They are available on county clerk websites and often on police websites as well. All the police department had to do, to save time and phone calls during a high-profile arrest, was post the records online like usual and send a tweet with a link to their records website. This would, at least in my opinion, been more professional. It would have also given the impression that the police department was not buying into sensationalism, because law enforcement is not supposed to be partial, even to Bieber Fever.