One of Asia’s best examples of the public sector making good use of social media is the Singapore Police Force on Facebook. In an interview with FutureGov, Assistant Commissioner Ng Guat Ting, Director of Public Affairs, explained how SPF has used social media to keep the public informed and reduce crime.
Singapore cops made their first foray into social media in 2008 with the Singapore Police YouTube channel
. The channel, which launched to give wider exposure to SPF
’s CrimeWatch TV
programme videos, crime prevention tips and public education messages, has just 677 subscribers but almost 700,000 uploaded views.
The next year, SPF co-produced the i-Witness programme with the Straits Times’ web TV portal Razor TV. The show featured short video appeals for information on unsolved cases, with a telephone number and email provided for tip offs.
Also in 2009, the SPF Facebook Page launched to supply its group members recruitment information, crime prevention advisories, counter terrorism messages and public education materials on topics like road safety, road courtesy and drink driving.
This year, SPF inevitably appeared on Twitter. “We see that we have the potential to be an important broadcast channel for crisis communications as tweets can be exponentially spread through the ‘Twitterverse’ via the retweet function,” Ng said.
But of all the channels, Ng sees Facebook as the pivotal social medium for SPF.
“To date, the Facebook has attracted a very active community of 25,000 fans. We get up to 600 unique visitors generating 5000 page views daily. Our page ranks among the top police Facebook pages around the world in terms of numbers of fans.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is one the few police pages that are more popular - it has more than 50,300 fans. The New York Police Department Facebook page has 20,500 fans, the London Metropolitan Police Service’s page has 209, and the Philippine National Police has 1,358.
A team of two regular officers in the Public Affairs department was assigned to develop all of SPF’s social media activities, including responding to online conversations to “take the pulse of netizens”.
Citizens’ comments are investigated and often acted upon, as are suggestions for how to improve the page, although the team does not operate for 24 hours a day.
“The SPF Facebook Page is growing in users because it provides regular and timely crime alerts and crime prevention tips, appeal for information videos, recruitment updates, and a platform for those who wish to know how they could contribute to crime-fighting as volunteers,” noted Ng.
The page is updated with two postings every day during week days, with additional posts on weekends and public holidays.
“The frequency of SPF postings is spaced out throughout the day with no more than three postings a day. We don’t want to be seen to be spamming our fans’ newsfeeds,” Ng said.
SPF is taking a measured approach to comments posted by citizens. “Occasionally fans use the page to report suspected criminal activity. Although we keep an open mind in listening and acting on feedback from fans, they are reminded not to use the Facebook Wall for reporting crime. They are re-directed to the proper channels - 999 for emergencies, or 1800-2550000 and firstname.lastname@example.org to provide information.
But the page has helped curb crime in the real world. Ng pointed to SPF’s Facebook page as having played a key role in reducing cases of phone scams in Singapore. Crime prevention advisories sent to fans of the page, which quickly spread through the community, have been used in combination with traditional media to help reduce phone scam cases by 28 per cent, Ng claims.
Key to the success of the page has been a light touch, Ng concluded. “We only delete postings if there is a strong reason for it, if there is a clear breach of the Facebook Code of Conduct, postings which are offensive or defamatory, or those considered as advertising and spamming.”
The full interview with Ng Guat Ting, which reveals SPF’s future plans for its Facebook page, will appear in the October issue of FutureGov.