Finding new ways for agencies to demonstrate transparency is important, and one effective avenue is social media. For the past few years, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office (PSO) has shown citizens what deputies experience during a typical shift through virtual Tweet-Alongs. Deputies describe the calls they’re on, how they approach these calls, the work they do and what drives them at their job through a series of videos, photos and responses throughout a shift.
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While the Tweet-Alongs started as a Twitter-only activation, they have since expanded to several social media platforms to ensure we capture a wider audience. An introductory video is shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram before the Tweet-Along to encourage participation. During a Tweet-Along, most content is also shared on our agency’s Twitter and Instagram pages. After the event, we produce a “recap” video, showing the highlights of the Tweet-Along, which is shared on our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels, including a dedicated YouTube playlist for Tweet-Along recaps. While a majority of the Tweet-Along is video-based, photos are often used too.
How the Tweet-Along works
A social media coordinator rides with a deputy to document the deputy’s day and shares questions that citizens ask with the deputy while they work. The social media coordinator can answer questions directly on social media, or if time and call volume allow, have the deputy answer questions with a video response.
The social media coordinator also tries to anticipate common questions and include them in the content shared. For instance, during a Tweet-Along focused on traffic enforcement, we showed a deputy calibrating his radar with tuning forks, which is not a part of traffic enforcement citizens would normally see. Citizens were able to ask what the forks were used for.
What the Tweet-Along shows
PSO shows almost everything in a deputy’s typical shift during the Tweet-Along – from the mundane paperwork and evidence processing to tracks with K-9s and arrests.
We work hard to protect citizens’ identifying information during the Tweet-Along, such as house numbers or a vehicle tag and do not show citizens with whom we’re interacting unless permission is given.
When a deputy is interacting with someone during a call, the social media coordinator focuses on the deputy. Our equipment is limited to a phone and a wireless Bluetooth mic that the deputy wears for the entirety of the Tweet-Along. The mic helps combat some of the other noises, such as engine sounds or passing cars and helps focus the audio on the deputy. We also use apps to quickly edit together videos in the moment.
Selecting a Tweet-Along theme
Prior to a Tweet-Along, we establish a central focus. During April for instance, which is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we focused on traffic violations, like passing stopped school buses and speeding or running stop signs in construction zones. This allows us to dive deeper into certain duties our deputies have or highlight an aspect of our operations.
Tweet-Alongs are well received in our county and our citizens look forward to them. After pausing Tweet-Alongs for over a year due to COVID-19, the announcement of their return was met with enthusiasm and excitement from our followers.
How to host a Tweet-Along
Getting started with your own version of a Tweet-Along is simple. Start with a central goal for the Tweet-Along and explain what the expectations are for the Tweet-Along host. We usually have a brief meeting with new Tweet-Along hosts to explain that they shouldn’t alter their typical process for calls and the social media coordinator will ensure that anything that shouldn’t be online, such as victim information and more, won’t be there. Assuring hosts that they will be doing their typical job, but briefly explaining what’s happening to someone in the car with them usually helps ease camera nerves.
At PSO, we largely use deputies assigned to our Community Engagement Bureau as hosts, as they’re more comfortable with public speaking engagements and it helps minimize the impact of our operations on other bureaus, such as patrol. However, we’ve conducted Tweet-Alongs with many of our units to showcase a variety of our operations and how they work to assist our citizens.
Ensuring that the person doing the filming, which in PSO’s case is a social media coordinator, is appropriately prepared is essential as well. Reviewing agency policies as well as public record laws is highly recommended. Making sure that the person filming is familiar with riding in a patrol car is a good idea as well so that the first time they’ve been in the car during a traffic stop or a call for service isn’t when they’re trying to film.
Added benefits of a Tweet-Along
In addition to aiding in our mission of transparency, an added benefit is that potential applicants to our agency get an inside look at our members and how our agency conducts itself. Often, a Tweet-Along provides us with an opportunity to showcase a position that needs additional members. Such is the case for our School Crossing Guard Unit, with whom we’ve had host a few Tweet-Alongs. Not only does it give our members’ passion a chance to shine through, it provides the opportunity to hear about the job straight from a person actively doing it.
Overall, tweeting along with PSO members gives our community members a glimpse into the day in the life of a deputy and provides us with an opportunity to highlight the work our deputies do each day. It’s also an easy way to implement a transparency strategy in a conscious and respectful way. Using the power of social media to introduce your agency to your citizens can be impactful and have an influence on those thinking of applying to your agency…and all you need is a phone!
NEXT: Trooper Tracy: Making rural roads safer one social media post at a time