No engagement marks the digital battle lines

twitterco11metpolice
So London’s Metropolitan Police is now on Twitter.

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 people’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 “operational updates relating to the policing of their event starting on 26 August.”

The Camp for Climate Action is a grassroots pressure group for climate change (my description, given the lack of a snappy sound bite description in their about page) based in London.

There’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 don’t know the Met’s overall communication strategy, and I’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? Yesterday’s “swoop” is a good example of how the pressure group used Twitter and a range of other social media as an effective-looking communication tactic.

Don’t see the Met’s Twitter account or other social communication in any way as effective-looking.

Then there’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.

See what you think.

(It’s also a terrific use of Animoto, a tool I just love.)

Whatever your opinion might be of the pressure group and what they’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 they’re doing and using tools and channels that demonstrate a good understanding of their community.

Can’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. That’s a two-way street, by the way.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Ben Matthews

    Hi Neville,

    I know someone who is volunteering as part of the the Climate Camp comms team. I’ve flagged your post to them and made them aware of your point out their lack of appropriate sound bite to describe themselves succinctly.

    If I was them, I would just borrow your messaging:

    “Camp for Climate Action is a grassroots pressure group for climate change.”

    Will let you know if any response comes back…

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