Capsm twitter study 2010


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To use Twitter to its fullest potential for public communications, emergency management, and other functions, law enforcement agencies must first understand the medium -- not only how
citizens use it, but also how their peers use it both officially and unofficially. This study, a survey of 1,089 police and police-related Twitter accounts, used 25 different criteria to show how agencies and officers are using Twitter, where they can improve, and implications for their future use.

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Capsm twitter study 2010

  1. 1. A Survey of Official and Unofficial Law Enforcement Twitter Accounts in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States A Report of Laura Madison Christa M. Miller Chris Worden © 2010 Canadian Association of Police on Social Media
  2. 2. CAPSM provides leadership for law enforcement on the proven, reliable and most effective bestpractices for Internet based communication tools relating to both internal and external purposes,and to advocate for the use such technologies for the communities they serve and the membersthey represent.TABLE OF CONTENTSAbstract…………………………………………………………………………………………………….3Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………..3Background………………………………………………………………………………………………..4 Internet Usage……………………………………………………………………………………4 Twitter Usage…………………………………………………………………………………….5 International Twitter Usage……………………………………………………………………..5Methodology………………………………………………………………………………………………6Results……………………………………………………………………………………………………..7 Authoritative Visuals: Use of Twitter Features………………………………………………..8 Use of Third-Party Tools……………………………………………………………………….11 Tweet Automation………………………………………………………………………………13 Legal Disclaimers and Policy………………………………………………………………….13 Twitter Activity and Subject Matter……………………………………………………………14Conclusions and Recommendations………………………………………………………………….19References……………………………………………………………………………………………….21Appendix…………………………………………………………………………………………………22
  3. 3. ABSTRACTTo use Twitter to its fullest potential for public communications, emergency management, andother functions, law enforcement agencies must first understand the medium -- not only howcitizens use it, but also how their peers use it both officially and unofficially. This study, a surveyof 1,089 police and police-related Twitter accounts, used 25 different criteria to show howagencies and officers are using Twitter, where they can improve, and implications for their futureuse.Keywords: law enforcement, Twitter, crisis informatics, social media policy, third-party Twittertools, public information, community relationsINTRODUCTIONThe way law enforcement agencies use social networking for public relations andcommunications is not well understood. It is easy to look at a handful of Twitter and Facebookaccounts, and think they represent all law enforcement agencies on those particular socialnetworks, whether they are active or inactive or positive or negative in tone.However, this does a disservice to the 1,000+ law enforcement agencies and officers on Twitter,as well as the communities they serve. The fact is that agencies approach the way they usethese tools in a variety of ways: personal accounts both official and unofficial; official departmentaccounts; via mobile devices, third-party tools and the basic web interface; and in conjunctionwith other social networks. They may assign one person or a team to maintain their accounts,opt for a positive or neutral tone, or try an account briefly before ending its use.The goal of this study is to refine our current understanding of the way law enforcementagencies in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom use the social networking toolTwitter. Popular because of its messages’ brevity, Twitter allows for one-to-manycommunication, at the same time facilitating an unprecedented means for two-waycommunication between police and public.Currently, most if not all analysis of law enforcement Twitter use is qualitative and anecdotal.This study quantifies that use and analyzes levels of engagement, such that law enforcementcommanders, public information officers, members of the media, and members of the public(among others) will be able to assess their local agencies’ and officers’ use compared to others’.The study will also help police to develop best practices regarding Twitter use, whether personalor official.Researchers wanted to find out whether police users: ● Fully utilized Twitter’s many features, such as professionally made backgrounds and appropriate avatars, to create a better sense of engagement with their followers. ● Accessed Twitter via the standard web interface, or used third-party and mobile-device
  4. 4. tools. This would indicate whether they had a good command of social media capabilities as well as whether they accessed their accounts from the field. ● Automated any aspect of their Twitter engagement, including whether they tied their accounts to other social tools such as Facebook or twitterfeed. This could indicate not just a good command of social media capabilities, but also ensure postings even when the officer was unavailable. ● Included legal disclaimers or other policy about their social media use. ● Tweeted information about their on-duty activities including arrests; information about wanted or missing persons, local traffic advisories, or community volunteer initiatives; or links to local news media. ● Tweeted personal opinions about crime or criminal justice; hobbies or other personal interests; potentially sensitive information about subjects or ongoing cases; or prejudicial statements.The study also assessed how talkative, or engaged, police users were.BACKGROUNDAlthough no law enforcement-specific social media research currently exists, plenty of studieshave been done which can be applied to police social media use.Internet UsageNotably, law enforcement agencies must foremost be aware of how the Internet is actually used,not just in their own communities but also nation- and worldwide. Digital media measurementfirm comScore Inc. notes that nearly three-quarters of global internet users monthly use socialnetworking sites. However, the World Internet Project, conducted by the Center for the DigitalFuture at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, found that just half of 10reporting countries reported more than a majority of their respondents use the internet. In theUnited States, 78 percent of respondents were internet users.About equal numbers of men and women in the United States use the internet, according to theWIP, as do 42 percent of American respondents aged 65 or older. Of those who do not, mostare not interested or do not see the internet as useful. Fifty-seven percent of Americanrespondents believe that half or less of the information they receive online is valuable.These findings are important for law enforcement agencies for a variety of reasons. They cannotexpect to rely solely on social media for their community relations, but can consider socialmedia to be an enhancement to their communications efforts. If about 22 percent of thepopulation and more than half of elderly adults do not use the internet, and if more than half ofusers do not trust online information reliability, then police must consider the effect on theircommunications about crime trends, disasters, issues of public trust, and even more mundaneevents like traffic incidents. With that said, it is better to be available to supply correctinformation to citizens who do use the internet and social media, then to fail to be in those online
  5. 5. spaces.Twitter UsageWith regard specifically to Twitter, comScore Inc. reports that in June 2010, nearly 93 millionInternet users visited from their homes or workplaces. Exclusive of third-partyTwitter applications like TweetDeck, this represented an increase of 109 percent from theprevious year. Regionally, Europe saw 22.5 million Twitter visitors in the same time period, anincrease of 106 percent, while North America’s 25 million visitors represented a 22 percentincrease for that region.In comScore’s six mobile markets (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, German,Spain and Italy), Twitter use is growing among smartphone users. For the purposes of thisstudy, 4.2 million (8.3 percent) of US smartphone users accessed in one monthfrom their mobile devices, while 5.8 percent of smartphone users in the United Kingdom didlikewise.On the other hand, a recent survey showed that half of Twitter users tweet less than once perday, and nearly a third have never tweeted. Meanwhile, only ten percent of users tweet five ormore times per day, despite Twitter activity increasing.Again, police must consider the implications of these statistics for their online communications --this time for technology-savvy users in their communities, who are more likely to report abouttheir involvement in large- or small-scale disasters. The nascent field of “crisis informatics” asdescribed by Palen et al. (2010) takes as a matter of course that members of the public willrespond to and become involved in crises, including actively communicating information to oneanother.Part of this is the practice of “retweeting,” or copying tweets with credit given to the originator(s).Retweeting serves a valuable purpose in that it can spread the reach of information muchfurther than a single user’s network; thus, government agencies must consider it valuable, andtake pains to tweet content that their followers will want to retweet, in particular information thathas URLs and hashtags included (Suh 2010).International Twitter UsageApart from emergencies, it should not go unnoticed that Indonesia, Brazil and Venezuela hadthe highest numbers of people visit (out of the 41 countries which comScorereports). With Indonesia at 20.8 percent market penetration, Brazil at 20.5 percent, andVenezuela at 19 percent, and countries like the Philippines, Mexico and Singapore not farbehind at 14.8 percent, 13.4 percent, and 13.3 percent respectively, police users in NorthAmerica and the UK must remember that these countries rank high for cyber criminal activity.It follows that, even if the actual investigation of crimes remains the purview of federal and state-
  6. 6. level task forces, reporting may well be initiated with local law enforcement when citizensbecome aware that the innocuous-looking link they clicked from Twitter downloaded malware totheir computer or smartphone. Even if local police never find the malware’s origin, higher marketpenetration in countries already known to host cyber criminals increases the likelihood of NorthAmerican and British crime victims, and thus of reporting.Indeed, as a recent Barracuda Labs report states, activity is increasing on Twitter. More peopleare joining, and the nearly 29 percent of “True Twitter Users” along with casual users arebecoming more active -- resulting in more malicious activity. The Twitter Crime Rate, oraccounts that ended up being suspended by Twitter, was 1.67 percent through the first half of2010.METHODOLOGYResearchers estimated the total number of police Twitter users across Canada, the UnitedKingdom and the United States at 1,089, and analyzed this number of accounts. Although it ispossible that some police users joined Twitter as the study was ongoing and therefore weremissed, this number is likely to be small and not affecting the overall sample size.Researchers began to “collect” or follow law enforcement Twitter accounts in April 2010, aprocess that continued through July 2010. Accounts were not separated by whether theybelonged to an officer or to an agency, although they were separated by country.Account assessment began in July 2010 and ended in August 2010. Researchers coded eachaccount according to 25 different criteria. These assessments were entered into a MicrosoftExcel spreadsheet for each country and then tabulated. Analysis of the research questions wascompleted using spreadsheet tabulation.Researchers did not code for responsiveness -- whether and how a Twitter user replies tofollowers. As the study was intended only to be a survey of use, correlations were notcompleted.The study also does not try to compare Twitter accounts with actual numbers of lawenforcement agencies and officers in each country. That is because some individual officeraccounts are official, and others unofficial; they do not all represent an accurate cross-section ofpolice in a particular country or even regions within.A marginal number of unofficial agency accounts, including police unions, fraternities andcivilian-created “scraper” feeds of computer aided dispatch calls, were excluded from the studybecause researchers did not believe they accurately represented answers to the researchquestions. Also excluded were police accounts from outside the Canada, the United Kingdom,and the United States.
  7. 7. RESULTSOf the 1,089 police accounts currently in existence, a majority of nearly three-quarters (800accounts, or 73 percent) belong to police officers or agencies in the United States. One-fifth(227, or about 21 percent) belong to police in the United Kingdom, with the remaining 62accounts (about 6 percent) belonging to Canadian police. Total Accounts Canada UK US 6% 21% 73%At the close of the study in August 2010, accounts in all three countries had tweeted a total of376,821 times. Percentages were roughly proportional to account numbers in each country:about 75 percent came from the United States, about 16 percent from the United Kingdom, andabout 9 percent from Canada. Total Number of Tweets Canada UK US 9% 16% 75%Accounts in all three countries have a total of 489,470 followers, with 83 percent of them in theUnited States, 10 percent in the United Kingdom, and 7 percent in Canada.
  8. 8. Total Number of Followers Canada UK US 7% 10% 83%However, the proportions shift somewhat when it comes to the number of accounts the policeare following. Police follow a total of 98,128 accounts; just 69 percent of these are in the UnitedStates, while 21 percent are in the United Kingdom and 10 percent in Canada. Total Number of Following Canada UK US 10% 21% 69%However, it is often said that follower numbers are not an appropriate measure of engagementbecause they do not provide the entire picture. Indeed, although they have the fewest accounts,Canadian police have an average of 590 followers (compared to 80 for British police and 506 forAmerican). And they follow an average of 156 accounts (compared to 93 in the United Kingdomand just 84 in the United States).Authoritative Visuals: Use of Twitter FeaturesResearchers wanted to find out whether police users fully utilize Twitter’s many features, suchas professionally made backgrounds and appropriate avatars, to create a better sense ofengagement with their followers.
  9. 9. Na Na m m 50% 100% 0% 0% 50% 100% e & e &   Ra  R an nk k Bi Bi o  o  C Co om m pl pl et et e In e In sig sig Na n n m e  & ia  ia   R 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% or or  B  B an ad ad Bi k o  ge ge Co In m Ba Ba sig pl et ck ck ni e a  Canada Yes gr gr or ou ou Ba  B Grand Totals Yes nd nd ck adUK Yes gr ge  C  C ou ra ra nd . .. . ..  C ra Ph ft ed Ph Ph ot Lin o  ot ot k  of o o  OUK No to  of  B ffi lo ce  of  O r Canada No  O g  Grand Totals No f fi c Ve or er ffi ce Av rif  W at ic eb r ar at sit Lin Lin  is io e Totals ‐ All Nations k k  B n UK NA  t o ad by  T  t o ge  B  B  o w lo lo r o itt er g o g o ffi r r ce Authoritative Visuals ‐ UK ... ... r p Grand Totals NA ho Canada NA Ve Ve to rif rif ic i Authoritative Visuals ‐ Canada at ca io tio n  n by  b  ... y . .. Av Av at at ar ar  i s B  is ad  B ge ad  . . ge  . .
  10. 10. Authoritative Visuals ‐ US 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Name & Rank Bio Complete Insignia or Badge Background Photo of Officer Link to Blog or Verification by Avatar is Badge Crafted Website Twitter or officer photo US Yes US No US NAUse of name and rank is important to transparency, or an officer’s or agency’s willingness totake responsibility for its content. Overall, only 32 percent of accounts state name and rank. Ofall three countries, the United Kingdom was strongest at using this detail; nearly half of itsaccounts made the statement. In the United States, that percentage dropped to 28 percent, andin Canada, was lowest of all at 16 percent.A completed biography -- the 160-character notation in the upper right-hand corner of a Twitterpage -- can be a qualitative indicator of transparency. Twitter bios convey a degree ofpersonality, to the extent that they may be entirely professional -- or take a tone of silliness,sarcasm, satire, and so forth. Left blank, they can leave a viewer guessing as to the account’spurpose or even its legitimacy.Nearly three-quarters of all accounts had completed bios. The percentage was not far off in theUnited States and Canada -- with 72 percent and 69 percent, respectively -- but in the UnitedKingdom, 81 percent of accounts showed completed bios.A police officer or agency that uses a badge, patch, or photo of a cruiser or department as anavatar and/or part of a background may convey a sense of authority, and perhaps moreimportantly, distance. Conversely, an officer or agency that uses a photo of him- or herself in theavatar or background may be seeking to convey a sense of humanity. Officers who use picturesof themselves in uniform likely seek a balance between humanity and authority.Insignia or badges were present in a little more than half of all accounts. This percentage wasabout the same in the United States, but rose to nearly 70 percent in Canada. Meanwhile, only40 percent of British accounts used insignia or badges. However, about 47 percent of all Britishaccounts used officer photos, compared with only 24 percent of Canadian accounts and 13percent of American accounts.Whether the account’s avatar contained an officer photo or badge was also measured. Thesedepictions were present in about 72 percent of all accounts. The percentage was similar inCanada (71 percent), the United Kingdom (68 percent), and the United States (73 percent).Twitter users have a choice between uploading their own background image, or using the webinterface default. For a police department, an official-looking background that is crafted with
  11. 11. insignia, officer image, contact information and/or legal information can help to convey a senseof professionalism and authority that is not present in a generic default background.Nearly half (43 percent) of all accounts featured a crafted background. This percentage wasslightly higher in the United States with 48 percent, but it was lower in Canada with 34 percentand lower still in the United Kingdom with 26 percent.Twitter users also have the option of linking to a website from their account profiles. For lawenforcement users, that might be a department website or a blog. The presence of eitherindicates users who seek to communicate with others beyond 140-character tweets; linking to awebsite can provide additional context to department activities, while a blog -- if regularlyupdated -- conveys the desire to provide more dynamic content to the public and can also helpwith verifying that its actually a police account if links on the blog or website are also present.Nearly two-thirds of all accounts linked to a website or blog. This percentage was similar in theUnited States and in the United Kingdom, but was closer to three-quarters in Canada.Finally, a verified account indicates that the Twitter user is indeed who s/he says s/he is. This ismost common among celebrity users, but can be a useful brand management tool forgovernment agencies too -- particularly law enforcement agencies, which may be susceptible topranksters or even users with more malicious intentions.However, researchers found that only eight of those law enforcement accounts indexed in thisstudy were verified by Twitter staff -- one in the United Kingdom, and the other seven in theUnited States.Use of Third-Party ToolsResearchers wanted to know whether police users accessed Twitter via the standard webinterface, or used third-party and mobile-device tools. This would indicate whether they had agood command of social media capabilities as well as whether they accessed their accountsfrom the field. Totals ‐ All Nations 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Web Only 3rd Party API in use RSS in use Facebook to Nixle in use Mobile in use Platforms Twitter Grand Totals yes Grand Totals no Grand Totals na
  12. 12. Tools Utilized ‐ Canada 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Web Only 3rd Party API in Use RSS in Use Facebook to Nixle in use Mobile in use Platforms Twitter Canada yes Canada no Canada na Tools Utilized ‐ UK 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Web Only 3rd Party Platforms API in use RSS in use Facebook to Twitter Nixle in use Mobile in use UK yes UK no UK na Tools Utilized ‐ US 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Web Only 3rd Party API in use RSS in use Facebook to Nixle in use Mobile in use Platforms Twitter US yes US no US naA little more than half of the accounts in all countries utilize the web interface only. About one-quarter use third-party tools like TweetDeck, HootSuite, and the like; American and Britishadoption of these tools, which are 23 percent and 26 percent respectively, represent a lowerrate of adoption than in Canada, 40 of whose accounts use these tools.All third-party tools use Twitter’s Application Programming Interface (API), but not all toolschange the API setting to reflect use of their particular brand name. Researchers recorded “API”separately from other third-party tools to account for this.
  13. 13. Fifteen percent of all accounts use API tools. The rate of American law enforcement agenciesusing API tools is much higher -- nearly 18 percent -- than in either Canada (6.5 percent) or theUnited Kingdom (3.5 percent) due in large part to American use of the service Nixle. Nixle,which uses the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS) platform, wastouted as a way to broadcast community information without the need to engage, asconventional Twitter use demands. Of the American law enforcement agencies that use Twitter,12 percent use Nixle to push updates to Twitter.Finally, researchers coded for whether mobile devices (and applications) were in use. (It shouldbe noted that Nixle is accessible via mobile device, but was not counted this way because thereis no way to tell when it is used in the field vs. from a stationary location.) Twenty-seven percentof all law enforcement Twitter users use mobile devices. The rate of adoption is highest in theUnited Kingdom at 39 percent, followed by Canada with 35 percent mobile use. Only about one-quarter or 23 percent of American police tweeters, however, use mobile devices to tweet.Tweet AutomationResearchers wanted to find out whether police users automated any aspect of their Twitterengagement, including whether they tied their accounts to other social tools such as Facebookor twitterfeed. This could indicate not just a good command of social media capabilities, but alsoensure postings even when the officer was unavailable.Researchers separated the use of RSS, or tools such as Twitterfeed, from other third-partytools. Use of RSS tools indicates the desire to share news -- most commonly blog entries, butalso any news items published via RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. Close to one-fifth of allactive law enforcement Twitter users use RSS; this is broken down into eight percent ofCanadian accounts, about six percent of American accounts, but two-thirds of all Britishaccounts.Whether Facebook updates are pushed to Twitter is important because it reflects a differentlevel of engagement, a desire to seek a broader audience by pulling one group of people(Twitter followers) towards another medium in which to engage. Nevertheless, Facebook-to-Twitter adoption rates are low: just about ten percent overall, with Canada and the UnitedKingdom sharing similar rates (eight and six percent, respectively) and 11 percent of agenciesin the United States using Facebook-to-Twitter.Legal Disclaimers and PolicyResearchers wanted to know whether police users included legal disclaimers or other policyabout their social media use. Both make clear what followers should and should not expect frominteracting with police on Twitter.However, none of the 62 agencies or officers accounts in Canada included either disclaimers orpolicy. Nine American agencies had legal disclaimers, but no policy links. In the United
  14. 14. Kingdom, meanwhile, no agencies posted legal disclaimers. Only one agency -- the LondonMetropolitan Police -- included a link to its Twitter policy. (Interestingly, however, at the time ofthe survey the Met had not tweeted, despite its detailed policy.)Twitter Activity and Subject MatterResearchers assessed how talkative, or engaged, police users were. They defined “talkative” asaccounts that tweeted one or more times per day, most every day of the week, “active” asaccounts that tweeted several times per week, and “sparse” as accounts with only few tweetsper month or less. Accounts with no tweets were counted along with locked or protected(accessible only to approved followers) accounts. Totals ‐ all Nations Talkative Active Sparse None Locked 6% 3% 13% 40% 38%Overall, most accounts fell into the “Active” or “Sparse” categories with 38 and 41 percent ofaccounts, respectively. Only 12 percent could be considered “Talkative,” but just six percent hadno tweets, and only three percent were locked.Police Twitter users in the United States showed very similar proportions. However, Canadianagencies had a higher proportion of “Talkative” accounts, while in the United Kingdom, thedifferences were profound -- 21 percent of accounts were “Talkative,” 42 percent were “Active,”and only 31 percent were “Sparse.”
  15. 15. Canada Talkative Active Sparse None Locked 5% 3% 18% 42% 32% UKUK  UK Talkative UK Active 2% UK Sparse UK None UK Locked 5% 0% 21% 31% 41%
  16. 16. USA US  US Talkative US Active US Sparse US None US Locked 3% 6% 0% 10% 37% 44%Researchers wanted to find out whether police users tweeted information about their on-dutyactivities including arrests; information about wanted or missing persons, local traffic advisories,or community volunteer initiatives; or links to local news media. Qualitative & Quantitative ‐ Totals 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% s ty sts sts ew ... ..  ... fe is. re . .. re .. en l n Sa ve  a. om  M r te m r a c/ ca iti ns , in or m  C ffi y o ns lo io co d   & es ra ts  se pin ut te ice al  t T bi ee ly  t d an  o ob ici ol ou ial tw al t W ou ud t h t P ab on nt re ab ej ou ou te ou ts/ ts  rs pr ts  po pe ab ab ee ab ee ts  ee ts  ts  ts  ts  ts  Tw Tw ee Tw ee ee ee ee ee Tw Tw Tw Tw Tw Tw yes no na
  17. 17. Tw ee ts  ab ou Tw Tw t d ee ee ut ts  ts  y  o ab 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% ab r a Tw ou ou . .. ee 0% 50% 100% Tw t d ee t W ts  u. ts  an ab . ab te Tw ou ou d. ee t W Tw t T .. ts  ... ee r af ab ts  fic Tw ou ab /S ee t T ou .. . ts  r.. Tw t P ab . ee ol Tw ou ee t Pyes yes ts/ ice re  . . ts/ o. Tw tw . re .. ee Tw tw eeno no ts  ee ee ts  lo ts. pe ca ts  .. Tw rs l... Tw pe rsna na on ee al ee on ts   o ts  a. ab pin ab .. ou .. . Tw ou Tw t h ee t h ee ob ts  ... ts  bi po po es Tw te te , .. Tw nt . ee nt ial ee ial ts  .. Qualitative & Quantitative ‐ UK ts  ly  pr pr se ej ej n. ud Qualitative & Quantitative: Canada ud .. ici ic i .. al  c.. .
  18. 18. Qualitative & Quantitative ‐ USA 100% 50% 0% . . e. ... .. ... .. . .. y  . .. ... a. p. lo bi an ic. fi ly  ut ic i  o af ob ts  ol t W t d ial ud al r ee t h t P t T on nt ou ej ou tw ou ou ou te rs pr ab ab re po pe ab ab ab ts  ts  ts/ ts  ts  ts  ts  ts  ts  ee ee ee ee ee ee ee ee ee Tw Tw Tw Tw Tw Tw Tw Tw Tw yes no naAbout half of all users tweeted about on-duty activities, including arrests. In Canada, thispercentage was closer to 63 percent; in the United Kingdom it was as high as 70 percent, whilein the United States it was only about 42 percent.Nearly 38 percent of users tweeted about wanted or missing persons. While in the UnitedStates, the percentage was similar at 34 percent, in the United Kingdom the rate was higher at46 percent, and in Canada higher still at 52 percent.About 54 percent of users tweeted about traffic or other public safety advisories. Americanusers tweeted these at a slightly lower rate (50 percent), Canadian users at a slightly higher rate(58 percent), and British users at nearly two-thirds (64 percent).A little more than one-third (35 percent) of all accounts tweeted about police and communityvolunteer activities. Sixty-nine percent of Canadian users tweeted on these topics; likewiseBritish users. In the United States, however, this rate fell to just under one-quarter.Users were not likely to tweet links to local news media stories. Overall, only about one-fifth ofusers did so. This was about the same in the United States, and higher in Canada (27 percent),but lowest of all in the United Kingdom (seven percent).Researchers also wanted to know whether police users tweeted personal opinions about crimeor criminal justice; hobbies or other personal interests; potentially sensitive information aboutsubjects or ongoing cases; or prejudicial statements.Only nine percent tweeted personal opinions about crime or criminal justice. This percentageremained consistent across Canadian, British and American users.
  19. 19. Nearly one-fifth of all users tweeted about personal interests or hobbies. This was about thesame in the United States, slightly lower in Canada at 17 percent, but higher in the UnitedKingdom at 22 percent.Whether police users tweet potentially sensitive legal information -- such as clues that couldidentify suspects or victims of crimes -- was of interest, in part because of media stories aboutpolice officers posting pictures of crime victims and scenes online. Overall, 99 percent of usersavoid such tweets. In the United Kingdom and Canada, only two accounts apiece tweetedsensitive information; in the United States, only 11 accounts did.Finally, accounts were assessed for whether they tweet prejudicial or marginalizing statements,such as grouping “people on that side of town.” or statements that could be interpreted as racistor sexist. Overall, only three percent of users made such statements. Only one Canadianaccount had made them; no accounts in the United Kingdom had. However, in the UnitedStates, 29 accounts made such statements at least once.CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONSPolice in none of the three countries have a “better handle” on Twitter use than in others.Instead, each group of police has its own strengths and focuses, some of which may be culturalor political while others may reflect better command of social media and how it can serve thecommunity.For example, British police have the fewest followers on average, but have the highestproportion of “talkative” as well as “active” Twitter accounts. They also have the highestproportion of RSS use, indicating a degree of automation which may not be of as much use tofollowers as more personalized tweets.On the other hand, Canadian police, even with the fewest accounts of the three, have thehighest average number of both followers and followees, and a higher proportion of “talkative”accounts. Meanwhile the United States, with the most accounts and most tweets, have thefewest average followees as well as more “sparse” accounts.In general, then, police should follow more people and companies in their own region -- not justfor the sake of gaining followers or with the intent of reading every tweet, but to increase theirreach: the likelihood of their tweets being retweeted during times of crisis or other need. Inaddition, law enforcement agencies should commit to tweeting at least 2-4 times per week inorder to stay on their followers’ radar (including responding to tweets or retweeting interestinglocal information). They should experiment with tweeting at different times of day to see which oftheir followers (for instance, private citizen vs. company) engages via retweet or conversation;they should also experiment with content, including links and even hashtagging.On average, British police tweet the most about their on-duty activities and traffic and publicsafety advisories, while American police are strongest of the three countries at tweeting missing
  20. 20. and wanted persons information, but are least likely to tweet community and police volunteeractivities. All are worthwhile types of content.So are links to local news stories, yet agencies across all three countries tweet them least of all.In fact, no law enforcement agency should discount the value of local media, just because socialmedia make it easier to tell their own stories. While in the United States, the police/mediarelationship can be adversarial, traditional media are important conveyances of information intimes of crisis. Engaging them can take a variety of forms: following them, tweeting their police-related story links (even if they are redundant to an agency’s own press release or blog entry).An agency that shows it is paying attention to its community earns social capital and credibility.However, it is important that public information officers not be the sole representatives of lawenforcement on Twitter. Individual officers with their own accounts have important voices; policycan and should drive their tone, but in general, because the vast majority of officers usingTwitter do not make legally sensitive or marginalizing remarks, they should be trusted to makethe right decisions and perhaps even support the agency’s efforts in disseminating information.However, they should also be trained to tweet, whether on duty or off, with a particular focus onnot tweeting “just anything” but rather having a strategy for Twitter activity.This kind of use can be defined and governed via internal guidelines, which should depend onlypartly on “best practices.” It should also be specific to the agency’s culture and individual officerpreferences. In fact, the lack of legal disclaimers (e.g. “The opinions expressed here do notreflect those of my employer” or “This account is not monitored 24/7; please do not use it toreport crimes”) and social media policy (which may include disclaimers as well as purpose andother information) is of concern. Forming and then publicizing such statements helps clarify theaccount’s purpose along with that of each person who maintains it. The statements also helpcitizens understand what to expect.Law enforcement users in all countries can improve their use of visual cues to convey purpose,professionalism, transparency and humanity. These include officer photos and/or images ofbadges and other insignia, along with complete biographies and official-looking backgrounds. Ingeneral, British police do a better job of using their own photos and of filling out their bios, whileAmerican police are more likely to have official-looking backgrounds and their names and/orranks clearly displayed. Canadian police have the most links to their websites or blogs. (Webpresences should also have prominent links to Twitter and other social accounts.)Whether a law enforcement account needs to be verified should be a function of its size andreputation. It is not unheard of for pranksters or even helpful citizens to “brandjack” an agencyaccount. Some have tweeted only computer aided dispatch information, but others (mostnotably in Austin, Texas, USA) have made fake accounts look official, and caused branddamage. Thus while verification is not necessary for every single agency, it is worth carefulconsideration.Finally, police Twitter users should try to experiment more with third-party and mobile Twitter
  21. 21. platforms. American users in particular need to school themselves on tools that exist and how touse them; for example, British police use of RSS-to-Twitter far surpasses use in either Canadaor the United States (although again, care must be taken not to over-rely on any one tool). Inmultilingual communities, meanwhile, TweetDeck’s translation tool may come in handy.American police especially need to work harder at adopting mobile Twitter use. Being able totweet from the scene of a bad incident or disaster can be critical to successful crisis monitoringand management.That more police are using Twitter to connect with their communities is encouraging. However,they should take care not to use it only because it is popular or because the neighboring agencysigned on. Instead, they must recognize it in the context of public communication at large: whouses it, how they use it, and where it can fit into various types of police operations.REFERENCESBarracuda Labs. “2010 Midyear Security Report.” 2010. August 20, 2010.Center for the Digital Future. USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. 2010. Accessed August20, 2010.ComScore, Inc. Accessed August 20, 2010.Palen, et al. “A Vision for Technology-Mediated Support for Public Participation and Assistancein Mass Emergencies and Disasters.” Accessed August 20, 2010.Suh, B.; Hong, L.; Pirolli, P. L.; Chi, E. H. Want to be retweeted? Large scale analytics onfactors impacting retweet in Twitter network. Second IEEE International Conference on SocialComputing (SocialCom); 2010 August 20-22; Minneapolis, MN. Accessed August 21, 2010.
  22. 22. APPENDIXCAPSM Research Framework for Data AnalysisTotals: US, UK, Canada 1. Total Tweets 2. Total Followers 3. Total Following Authoritative Visuals: Visual representations and links located on police Twitter accounts. 1. Name & Rank 2. Bio complete 3. Insignia or badge 4. Background crafted 5. Photo of officer 6. Avatar is badge or officer photo 7. Link to blog or website 8. Verification by Twitter Tools Utilized by Police Officers and Agencies When Using Twitter. 1. Web Only 2. Third Party Platforms 3. API in use 4. RSS in use 5. Facebook to Twitter 6. Nixle in use 7. Mobile in use Quantity and Quality of Communications: Police Officers’ Activity and Topics. 1. Talkative, active etc 2. Tweets about duty or arrests 3. Tweets about wanted or missing persons 4. Tweets about local traffic or safety 5. Tweets about police and community volunteer activities 6. Tweets or Retweets local news Tweets from Main Stream Media 7. Tweets personal opinions about Crime or Criminal Justice System 8. Tweets about hobbies, food, travel, sports or exercise. 9. Tweets potentially sensitive legal information or that may ID subjects 10. Tweets prejudicial comments or statements that could marginalize an identifiable group