At Officer.com this week, I wrote a back-to-basics column on using Twitter. The article ran long, so I didn’t get a chance to include a segment about a trend I’ve been noticing (and taking part in): the increasing importance of content curation.
Last month, the news that Twitter had acquired curation service Summify generated quite a bit of news. “Like some other services such as News.me, Summify filtered a user’s activity streams, then used an algorithm to produce a daily e-mail with links to the most-shared content in their social networks,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek explained.
In other words, Summify helped Twitter users determine what was important without their having to filter tweets manually. And with Twitter building this capability into its service, think about what curation might mean to a law enforcement Twitter account.
Remember: people share what they think their followers will benefit from. At this point, relevance is in the eye of the beholder—not the content originator. How can you help them?
First, put high quality content out there for sharing. Well-written blogs and web pages, well-edited video, carefully chosen images will get your followers’ attention. What about your agency’s police work do you want people to focus on? Communicate it clearly, and you’ll improve your chances that they’ll notice it and share it among themselves.
Second, curate content that supports what you’re doing. Sgt. John Jackson of the Houston Police Department presented me with an idea: use a curation service like Paper.li (or Scoop.it, my pick for Cops 2.0-related content) to package their various social streams for their audiences.
“Even better,” he wrote, “they could use it to bring some of their partners on board too. Crimestoppers, groups working with the mentally ill, homeless, veterans, etc.” Nonprofits, victim services advocates, community centers and others would be natural additions to a newsletter or curated stream. So would news articles highlighting a local-turned-broader issue across the nation.
This has been exactly the experience in the Hampshire (UK) Constabulary, Portsmouth City Centre Unit. Its Paper.li, The Daily Ninah — named for the unit’s police transit van, which (in a nice example of less formal engagement) got its name from the CCU’s Twitter followers — has been running for about two weeks. Unit leader Sgt. Robert Sutton says:
I chose paper.li due to the format being easy to use, it self populates, you can add content and it looks like a newspaper! It is also easy for the reader to digest and navigate through.
“Naturally I draw from local Hampshire Constabulary Twitter accounts but also from others across the county that I find are interesting and who promote useful crime prevention information/advice by thinking outside of the box.
“I also like to draw from partner agencies who we can promote (for example @actionfrauduk @Directgov @ASBACTIONLINE @HantsCrimestopp) and encourage followers/readers to explore these websites for further useful information.”
It is, along with the unit’s Twitter account, a tactic that supports a strategy: as Sutton describes, “to communicate crime prevention advice and encourage engagement with the public…. What we want is to break down the stereotypical barriers about what people think of the police, open up and explain what we do and show that we aren’t just a uniform; there is someone there for you if you need us.” Curation is just one of the ways the Portsmouth CCU is translating those words into action.