Not for reasons you might think, though. No reaching out to engage with the public at large. Not to connect with Londoners to talk about issues of common interest that might be on peopleâ€™s minds in a very large city. Not even to provide citizens with information that might be useful as well as create positive impressions of the police service with people inclined to engage via a channel like Twitter.
No, the Met is there on Twitter only as a means of informing the Camp for Climate Action of any â€œoperational updates relating to the policing of their event starting on 26 August.â€
Thereâ€™s more to the one-way, formal, command-and-control approach taken by the Met, as explained in the MPS C011 Twitter Policy:
We may occasionally use some automation (such as tools which generate tweets from RSS feeds) but intend that this will not dominate the messages posted.
If you follow us, you can expect tweets covering some or all of the following:
- Operational updates about the policing of the Camp for Climate Action, relevant to participants
- Information from emergency services partners relevant to the safety and well being of participants of the Camp for Climate Action
- Crime prevention advice or local community information relevant to participants of the Camp for Climate Action
And get this on actually engaging with anyone:
If you follow us on Twitter we will not automatically follow you back. This is to discourage the use of direct messaging, avoid resource wasting spam handling and so that you can easily identify other key Twitter users we think are relevant to our work in who we follow. Being followed by us does not imply endorsement of any kind.
All well and good if the Met tweeter(s) followed more than the two other Twitter accounts they currently follow.
While I donâ€™t know the Metâ€™s overall communication strategy, and Iâ€™m not going to second-guess it here, I am a bit non-plussed as to why the police is using Twitter at all, even for the reasons they clearly state in their Twitter policy.
Is it because the Camp for Climate Action uses Twitter in ways that are dramatically effective in connecting people and engaging with them? Yesterdayâ€™s â€œswoopâ€ is a good example of how the pressure group used Twitter and a range of other social media as an effective-looking communication tactic.
Donâ€™t see the Metâ€™s Twitter account or other social communication in any way as effective-looking.
Then thereâ€™s video, in particular YouTube.
I embedded a YouTube video created by the Camp for Climate Action on my Posterous site yesterday day as it caught my attention as being a particularly imaginative use of a social medium.
Whatever your opinion might be of the pressure group and what theyâ€™re trying to achieve at their week-long camp in Blackheath, south London, as well as so-called direct action activities around London to more forcefully demonstrate their views, you have to give the communicators in the group some pretty high marks for imagination and passion in what theyâ€™re doing and using tools and channels that demonstrate a good understanding of their community.
Canâ€™t say the same for the Metropolitan Police. Not for now, at any rate.
This would be a good time to engage rather than confront, it seems to me. Thatâ€™s a two-way street, by the way.