Social media advice to cops: Dial back the puppies

The puppy will have its name later this week. Photo supplied
Police have been told to post more on social media about operational work and less about puppies.. Photo: Supplied/Police
Police paid $10,000 for a social media audit by a marketing company which suggested dialling back on puppy pictures and posting more about operational police work.

The audit included a manual assessment of 16,000 comments on police social media channels, finding the Southern District (Otago and Southland) had among the lowest levels of positive comments in the country, at just four percent, compared to a high of 17% in Waitemata.

Undertaken by social media marketing company Socialites last year, information about the audit was gleaned from a PowerPoint presentation obtained by the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act.

Police are prolific on their official social media pages, particularly Facebook, where posts about police dogs and puppies are frequent and can garner thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.

Alongside feel-good posts are mugshots of wanted people on police Facebook pages, the modern equivalent of wanted posters.

Socialites lavished praise on police for their use of social media, including humour, saying they were outperforming other agencies in New Zealand.

"We love the tone adopted by NZ Police on social media - it's human and authentic, which is what we see effective use of social media being all about.

"Australian Federal Police are the closest example of a government agency utilising humour and humility effectively."

However, the company said there was room for improvement, recommending an increase in the number of posts about actual operational work, and "dialing up the use of Te Reo where possible".

The audit found more than half of posts on the police national Facebook page were themed around trust and confidence, specifically humorous and "feel-good" posts and content.

Just 8% of posts related to preventing crime and 16% to road safety warnings.

A slide in the presentation alluded to divisions within police on the high number of puppy-focused posts.

"As we know this is a regular discussion point at police, we've also addressed puppies."

The company recommended increasing the proportion of news related to operational work.

Police marketing and communications national manager Paul Halford said the audit was commissioned to evaluate their social media performance.

The audit cost $10,000, he said.

Socialites founder and chief executive Wendy Thompson said the audit was a one-off for police, who wanted a fresh perspective on their use of social media from someone they had not worked with before.

Mrs Thompson described the project as "huge" and confirmed the auditing of the 16,000 comments was undertaken manually.

She acknowledged staff recommended a few tweaks, such as fewer dog pictures, but said her company was very impressed overall.

"I think we felt it was an easy win, and it's lovely, but what we felt they could do more of, which I think they've done more of, is ... photos of police out doing their job."

Police spent $171,676 on Facebook advertising last year, compared with $73,943 on print advertising (including street posters and bus stop ad-shells), out of a total marketing spend of $968,531.



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