Some law enforcement agencies may be reluctant to jump into social media because they are unsure of how many customers are really online. What’s the point, they reason, if they’re communicating with only a tiny fraction of the population they serve?
It’s a valid point. Committing already-thin resources to something that may not pay off in significant community engagement doesn’t seem to make sense.
Comcast’s emphasis on quality—not quantity
But then I read this interview at marketing and social media expert Valeria Maltoni’s blog. Comcast Customer Service Manager Frank Eliason, long applauded for his efforts on Twitter and elsewhere, replied to Valeria’s question about whether his work with “one sliver of the Comcast customer base” had had a positive effect overall:
–It is hard to say, because we are doing so much to improve the Customer experience throughout the organization, that positive improvement truly highlights all of those efforts. I think the preferred measurement for the C-Suite has been how we have taken what we have learned from Customers and truly improved the experience for all Customers.
–Unlike typical measurements of performance, my team is measured on effectiveness and improvements they make for our Customers. I teach them to be proactive and find solutions to problems they encounter. If something is broken for others they are encouraged to find solutions.
In fact, social media as a means to communicate with small market segments is catching on all over the corporate world. This article detailed the way in which food makers are responding to “a niche the industry would once have dismissed as too small to target profitably.”
Not only are the companies changing their existing products and processes; they’re also investing in new products: “For a while, the larger companies said, ‘We’ll let someone else do it, and then buy them if they’re any good,'” said Bill Bishop, chairman of consulting group Willard Bishop. “Now it’s become evident that you give up too much in opportunity by letting it get developed by the smaller players.”
How long can you afford to wait?
Law enforcement agencies may do well to pay attention. It strikes me that many are, indeed, waiting to see what happens with the neighboring and other agencies using social media to reach out to customers. But civilians are online now, and the social ‘net is constantly changing, growing.
In the 9 months since I’ve been on Twitter, for example, I’ve seen law enforcement use skyrocket from just a handful of agencies and cops to—well, a lot, enough to form communities among patrol officers and digital forensics people and even some of the “official” agency pages, the PIOs who are inclined to follow each other.
It follows that other members of your community are joining, if not Twitter, then Facebook, LinkedIn, and any one of a hundred other social networks. Sure, that number may be small. It may stay small. But 1) how would you know unless you yourself were online? And 2) historically, often the smallest groups effect the greatest changes.
Image: me’nthedogs via Flickr