Bobbies on the Tweet: publicity or public engagement?

On Thursday last week, Greater Manchester Police broke new ground by using a 24 hour Twitter feed to log every 999 call that came in to them.

It was a fantastic way to show the diversity of calls that they receive and their effective response strategies – arrests, warrants and  community champions.

Picked up by regional and national news channels, GMP were held up as an example of innovation, openness and creativity as they catapulted the public sector’s first steps into online engagement to the masses.

However I couldn’t help thinking that the two-way beauty of Twitter and social media was missed, shadowed by the novelty and bravery of GMP in publicising the sheer amount of their workload online.  Surely the whole point of Twitter is that it’s sharing information and ideas in order to collaborate – not to push?

Having said that, the corporate GMP Twitter feed @gmpolice was doing an excellent job of replying to the positive praises of other tweeps and it certainly increased the number of followers aware of their work.

So was it just a one off publicity stunt or was it an effective way to build long term relationships with their key publics?

I’d like to hear your thoughts, but one thing’s for sure: the public sector is now seriously considering the impact that social media – and Twitter in particular – can have on provoking public positivity towards their work.  In the current economic climate GMP’s pioneering transparency can only reinforce the need for excellent services and communications.

What do you think?

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