The aim of the session was to help show senior staff from around West Midlands Fire Service of the benefits of using social media to communicate with the public. I had been asked to speak about how we’ve been successful in West Midlands Police using social media to keep people informed about what we’re doing.
This isn’t to say that the fire service are not already using social media to good effect – several stations have their own twitter feeds on which information about incidents is published and there are many staff operating accounts too. Oldbury Fire Station is a good example, as is the station in Erdington and their official twitter stream, @WestMidsFire.
In planning my presentation, the reflection on how we are using social media I found very useful in summing up how it has benefited us and how, given the right approach, it can help further the aims of any organisation willing to embrace it.
I’d talked about how we use it and gave some examples of what sort of accounts we have operational. Twitter was a given, also mentioned were our accounts on YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, our blogs and even some presence on Google+.
We’ve used social media to promote initiatives, give information of major incidents, make appeals and much more. As for who uses it, we have officers from PCSOs and police staff right the way up to the Deputy Chief Constable signing up to Twitter and writing blogs, and also a range of accounts for specialist departments such as the helicopter.
I’d discussed the uptake of social media by forces around the country (over six hundred officers and rising, not to mention corporate accounts) and how successful our Twitter streams had been in terms of public response and recognition in national competitions.
As some of the commanders were new to social media, we also discussed some concerns over the medium – that updates might be taken out of context or accounts used unprofessionally and hopefully made some progress with regards to offering assurance that the capability of social media for positive benefit far outweighs any potential negatives.
I think that the meeting took place at all demonstrated the power of social media for communication and bringing people closer together as my only contact with both Neil and Simon beforehand had been through our Twitter accounts.
I’m hopeful that I’d been able to influence those present that further embracing social media could be of a real advantage to organisations such as the fire service and want to thank both Neil and Simon, as well as the delegates themselves for being so open minded.
I think any feedback about how organisations like the fire service could use social media would be very useful. Would you, for example, like to see more fire stations or firefighters using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to communicate? What sort of content would you be interested in and what do you think you’d find useful?