I've not done any recent environment scan, let alone a comprehensive survey. But looking at the comments and number of congratulatory Likes for its recent "win", it's easy to conclude that the SPF Facebook page is certainly a popular one:
The "win" was this, as reported by ChannelNewsAsia, 25 Nov 2011 (emphasis are mine):
SINGAPORE: Police have arrested two loanshark suspects based on a lead that came from a photo that was posted on the police Facebook page in July 2009.
A netizen called the 999 number on November 11 after seeing the photo, saying he could identify the suspect.
Fuller details over at the SPF press release, "Singapore Police Makes Its First “Facebook Arrest", 25 Nov 2011:
This significant development came about on 11 Nov 2011 when a public-spirited person called 999 and informed that he could identify a loanshark suspect from a photo posted on the Police Facebook Page since July 2009. This has led to the arrest of the suspect and another suspect, both 19 years old, for suspected involvement in loanshark harassment activities in the Bukit Merah area. Investigations are ongoing.
THE PERSISTENT NOTICE BOARD
At first I missed the part about the initial public appeal for information posted in July 2009 (ASIDE: for a skimmer like me, maybe the post could have said something like "Facebook breakthrough for a two-year old unsolved crime..." or something to that effect).
Anyway, I understood why the SPF considered it a significant "operational breakthrough". The inference was that traditional channels (newspapers or TV) tend to have a limited duration before information fades from public awareness. Even if people remember something, verifying it via the source would be hard beyond a few weeks.
I'm reminded of the "Think Before You Post" advisory video, warning young people about the persistent nature of the Internet. For fighting crime, that quality is a good thing.
VIRAL EFFECT (?)
I also noted that the SPF Press Release stated that one of their aims, for starting their Facebook Page in 2009, was to "(take) advantage of the viral nature of social media".
I'm not entirely clear how much of the cascading effect took place. Reading the press release, I understood the sequence of events to be:
- SPF posts the information on the suspects on Facebook in 2009.
- Fast-forward to 2011, a member of the public recognised the suspect and contacted the SPF.
I wonder how that member spotted the FB photos of the suspects. Scrolled all the way to earlier posts? Heard about it through a friend, who heard it from a friend? Maybe even a fall-out among gang members and using the FB post to disguise the fact that the caller already knew the suspects?
But the above is moot (and probably suggests I've too active an imagination).
What's important is that the case was resolved, with the help of the public. This "Facebook Arrest" is also likely to send a strong signal to would-be-criminals about the even longer arm of the law.
THE RISK OF SOCIAL MEDIA WITCH HUNTS
Of course the downside of a "social media cascading effect" would be called a social media witch-hunt, or Internet Vigilantism. The viral nature of social media works both ways.
Having said that, I don't recall a case of a social media witch-hunt in Singapore. Which may suggest that for something as serious as identifying suspects to the police, Singaporeans are a calm and rational lot on the whole.
Which also suggests to me that the public has a very high level of trust in the SPF's thoroughness and professionalism.
I certainly have.
SOCIAL MEDIA AMPLIFIES TRUST. OR DISTRUST
The SPF would not receive any public tip-offs at all, never mind through a social media channel, if it did not have the trust of the populace.
I think that's one reason for it being a successful on Facebook.
When the SPF identifies someone as a suspect, intuitively I do not question that. I would have assumed the SPF has enough evidence to make that charge (it's not a small thing to be publicly announced as a suspect in a police investigation, even if subsequently proven to be innocent).
That sort of trust is like Internet reputations: Slow to earn, fast to destroy.
Gladly, the SPF has maintained that social trust for as long as I can remember. Its efforts in maintaining its Facebook page does a good job of reinforcing that, and probably enhancing it. I've always admired was the consistent level of chatter over at their Facebook page. I don't get a sense of it being an echo chamber effect.
It's not just my view about the SPF being successful on social media:
On the topic of strategies, and agencies needing to know what they want to use social media for, the Singapore Police Force was brought up as a role model that knew exactly what they wanted to use the social platforms for—information sharing and recruitment—and used it well.Via www.FutureGov.asia
I was told the above was an unsolicited comment about the SPF. Yet another win.
SPF DOES NOT NEED TO BLOG (OR DOES IT?)
Back in May 2008, I wrote a three-parter on whether the SPF should have a blog (part 1, part 2, part 3).
They started their Facebook page in July 2009. Some people feel Facebook makes blogs redundant, but I've a different opinion -- perhaps for another post.
I wonder if SPF is planning for "the next step" wrt social media engagement. In my view, they are doing a darn good job already. I don't forsee the SPF embarking on the level of engagement like this last case study I blogged about, here and here).
But then again, maybe the SPF will lead the way. Again :)
UPDATE: Walter blogs about it, here.