The Serbian Ministry of Interior is off to a good start with their communication via Facebook. However, the Ministry so far do not engage citizens by answering questions or replying to comments, which is not the best practice.
By: Marko Živković (Digital Media Expert)
By: Saša Đorđević (BCSP)
The work of professional police officers is in the focus of the communication of the Serbian Ministry of Interior (MoI) on their Facebook page that was opened five months ago. More than half of all posts promote police directly, most often through showcasing personal successes of police officers in their line of work. The page content is diverse and it is mostly focused on sharing photographs, along with links and videos.
All these indicators suggest that MoI is off to a good start with their communication via Facebook.
However, the MoI Facebook page attracted less than 6.000 followers, which makes up only a tiny share (0.16%) of the total number of this platform’s users in Serbia. One of the reasons might be the fact that the MoI currently utilizes Facebook for a one-way communication only, without engaging with the users by answering questions or replying to comments, which is not the best practice.
The Ministry of Interior opened their official Facebook page on 21 January 2018.
As of 31 May 2018, the MoI’s Facebook page has a total of 5 678 „likes”, which comprises 0.16% of the estimated 3.4 million users of this social network in Serbia.
The MoI’s Facebook page is administered in line with most of the network’s own rules and best practices of online presence.
Since its inception and until 1 June 2018, the page had a total of 256 posts. This suggests that the MoI had an average of 2 posts per day, which is considered a sufficient number of posts for this social network.
The Ministry publishes content of various formats on their Facebook page, ranging from photographs and videos to posts with external links. An example of good practice is the use of formats such as carousel and notes.
Photos make up more than half of all the posts, whereas 78 of those were galleries with 2 or more photographs. Then come links, contained in one out of every four posts; videos, as one-fifth of the total number; and finally notes, which were used twice.
As a communication channel, Facebook is primarily being used for promoting police officers.
Out of a total of 256 posts, more than half are promotional ones, followed by service information (every 1 in 4), whereas the posts that promote the Minister of Interior or police officials make up 10%–the same percentage as of those inviting citizens to become involved or help with the police work.
The About section of the page was utilized in a good manner by including a map of the MoI’s headquarters, as well as the Ministry’s email address, short description of posting rules and links to the MoI’s web address and Instagram profile.
The MoI did a great job in promoting personal successes of their employees and creating videos solely for posting on Facebook, as well as making collages with the most popular posts from the previous months.
The MoI use its page in a balanced manner by sharing information on different departments within police (traffic police, border police, etc.) and thus promoting the whole institution to their followers.
The fact that the MoI utilize their Facebook page for one-way communication only remains problematic.
The MoI’s activities on Facebook mostly serve the purpose of promoting their work, whereas n0 answers are provided to the citizens’ inquiries posted in comments, not even to those pertaining to the Ministry itself. This is not a good practice when taken into account the two-way nature of communication via Facebook as a social network.
The one-way communication must also be the reason why such a small number of Facebook users liked the page, to begin with, especially if one considers that more than 3.4 million of people utilize this social network and that the MoI is one of the largest ministries with more than 40,000 employees.
The citizens expect from state institutions to be responsive to their questions, which means that the MoI could, through answering those inquiries, improve their credibility and have a positive impact on trust in the police, as well as state administration as a whole.
The MoI should recognize the possibility to be interpreted in a wrong manner if they refuse to engage in a direct communication, even on social networks. The success of social media presence is measured not by the quantity of content but rather by taking into account the quality of communication and engagement with users.
The Zurich police once organized a one-day Tweetaton campaign during which they published police activities during the said day, while at the same time receiving more than 400 messages from citizens. The police responded to more than half of questions received, which is why citizens sent mostly positive or neutral messages, whereas those with negative connotation were at the minimum (<0.1%).
Not a single question or comment on MoI’s Facebook page should remain unaddressed by the administrators. Those comments containing offensive content, either on religious, ethnic or some other basis should, of course, be deleted and the users who posted them reported. Finally, if there are elements of criminal acts in those comments the users who posted them should be criminally charged.
With the aim to improve the official MoI’s Facebook page, it is necessary for the procedure of replying to users’ comments to be put in place. This, coupled with the procedures aimed to address the potential conflict or crisis communication, will help with the MoI treating the users in a respectful and professional manner.
Translation: Bojan Elek
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 The carousel format allows one to showcase two or more images, videos, headlines or links within a single Facebook post. In this manner, the user can browse the content by scrolling on mobile phone/tablet or by clicking an arrow on the computer screen, this selecting the preferred content.