Who Are You Competing With?
The other morning I had a strategy call with several members of a police department and one of the questions was;
"What would you suggest we do to compete better with other accounts?"
This came on the heels of me suggesting that their idea to 'create a series of viral videos' might not work out as easily as they thought. If you could come up with a formula for viral you would be a very rich person. There are just way too many variables to make viral happen. But, that's for another day...
Back to the topic at hand here... "Compete with other accounts? I'm lost, what do you mean?" I was pretty sure what the person meant, I just needed to hear it to be certain. The member was concerned about making sure that their content was better / more popular than a few of the agencies that are geographically close to them.
Social media, actually public information communication as a whole, is not a matter of competition for law enforcement. First, and most importantly, law enforcement agencies at all levels must always be looking for ways to compliment each other's pursuit of great information sharing to make their communities better informed, safer and more prepared. There is never a competition in public safety... we're all in the same game here.
Second, there may be some overlap in audiences (a person lives in one city and works in another), but your primary audience is your primary audience.
You need to focus on delivering the best possible communications to your residents, your businesses, your visitors and your members.
Yes, audiences can and should change depending on the content and context of the information you're sharing.
Chasing followers, friends, subscribers and any other form of metric that you have no direct influence over should not be your concern. You work in Idaho and got a follower in New York? Great, so what.
When you create or share a piece of content aimed at providing great service to your community that gets shared beyond your geographic area, great! Enjoy it.
You should be appreciative of every connection and contact you have since they are a blessing, but the ones that will be there for you day in and day out are the ones that you need to be there for, day in and day out. Stephanie Slater, the PIO for the Boynton Beach Police summed it up perfectly with this tweet:
Finally, when you try to compare yourself to other agencies you run the risk of getting very easily disillusioned.
Other agencies might have better buy-in from the decision makers, more staff, better equipment, a simplified job, and or more resources to draw on. You might wear six hats for your agency and the person doing social for the next agency wears just one and they have help putting it on.
Now, you might find yourself in a position where a friendly competition happens. For example, your local high school football team beating the team from the next town over.
Go for it! You might have multiple accounts in your city and they want to compete for the most followers or likes... that could be fun and healthy. Highlighting your community would be a great way to get them involved in 'hometown, or home unit' pride. Years ago I had that happen with the department I worked for. Two unit commanders had a friendly bet going to see who's Facebook page would reach a certain number of likes first. One of the bosses asked if I could help him out. It was done fast and simple without any tricks, corny videos or clickbait tactics... it was just making sure that great content was put out consistently that was targeted to serve the people in that part of the city with a call to action every time.
How did I answer the question that was asked on the call?
Want to know who you are competing against? Here is the answer, the only one that matters...
Your job is to do the best you can do today and work at improving on that tomorrow. There is your only competition.
Have an awesome day. Get out there and serve your community well!