A version of this post will also be going on the Virtual Policing blog, which you’ll find here.
As part of our work in the Sussex Virtual Policing project we are helping a group of officers to use social media as part of their working lives to tell the story of what they’re doing and to communicate with communities online. The trouble is, of course, that police officers are busy people with very important jobs to do. How do they fit social media into an already busy, changeable and very mobile routine?
We’ve already started to help to work out how the officers can do this – and I thought it might be worth sharing a few ideas/tips… As the project continues there may be a few more thoughts that crop up, which I’ll try to add.
1). Use a good aggregator/dashboard
If you’re expected to keep hold of conversations in multiple places there’s no reason why you should be flitting from screen to screen all the time. There are lots of aggregators – or dashboards – that let you keep track of your various profiles in different forms of social media.
Threadsy…. The list is kind of endless.. Have a look at this post here for a run-down of some of the best.
2). Use an RSS reader – sparingly, mind!
You’ll find that there’s only so much time to dip into the conversations going on – and while your social media dashboard can help you’ll still need a wee bit of time at least once a week to peruse the blogs and sites that make up your patch.
The best way of doing this is to use a simple RSS reader, perhaps Google Reader, to keep abreast of the goings on in your patch. Some blogs allow you to subscribe by email, which is often the easiest way of paying attention to what’s going on! You might want to try Feed My Inbox to get RSS to your email account. That way you’re less likely to forget.
3). Blog simple!
You might be tempted into the idea of starting a self-hosted blog, buying a domain, some server space and doing things the, ahem, ‘proper’ route, but there are much easier ways to blog that take little or no time to set up – and are free. They also come (mostly) with good apps for mobile blogging.
WordPress.com is the best known of these platforms. It’s relatively simple to use and has massive, massive numbers of people using it. Some of the world’s most popular and best-known bloggers use it and – while the self-hosted WordPress.org cousin offers more whizzy stuff and customisation – it’s solid, dependable and a doddle to use.
Posterous is growing quickly in popularity, partly because it allows you to blog from an email. It has a lovely ‘we’ll take care of everything’ approach, so you can simply bung some pictures, video or documents in an email with a title, a few lines and send it to ‘email@example.com’. The email blog approach also means it’s easy for others to post to your blog – and it, as a result, has tremendous potential as a simple, cheap community blogging tool. Take a look at this example that came to life at a Social Media Surgery in Birmingham in 2010.
Tumblr is pretty similar, although has made its greatest strides as a kind of photo-blogging or scrapbook tool. Like Posterous, it makes it easy to post from email, but isn’t quite as user friendly in my opinion, particularly when you are trying to use it for multi-user projects. Not my favourite, but it has its fans.
4). Tweet success: find the easiest twitter app for your phone.
Twitter comes into its own when you are out and about. Finding a good twitter app for your phone is, er, therefore crucial. There’s plenty written about this, particularly for iPhone users – many of of whom have wildly different views on which is the best app to use, as this discussion on Quora testifies. I use Twidroyd for the Android – and I’ve had Gravity recommended to me by Philip John for use on Symbian smart phones (Nokia). Maybe the best advice is to find something that makes it easy for you to find and follow new friends. When you meet a fellow tweeter, you don’t want to be jabbing wildly at your phone while you try to hold a conversation with them, after all.
5). Don’t just write.
A very good thing about blogging, perhaps the best, is that you can find (almost) any way to communicate. If you’re on the go, writing might not be the best way of getting your point across – pictures, audio and video are all good options. In my next post I’ll look in detail at the ways you can start to get to grips with this stuff.