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Using Social Media to Circulate News that Matters and Solve Crimes

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), works towards building a safe and peaceful society, protecting people from harm, detecting crime and policing with the community.
By partnering with Hootsuite, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is engaging purposefully with local communities.

  • 1.5M
    impressions on Facebook video
  • 10,000
    clicks for job vacancies
  • 28%
    Increase in followers over 3 years

The challenge

As citizens began to look increasingly online for the latest news and information about crimes and policing efforts, PSNI’s social media channels became an important channel to engage with the community. Being able to share relevant news in a timely manner, particularly during a crisis, or asking the community directly about how they would like the police service to improve, rapidly became a must for PSNI.

Through a partnership with Hootsuite, PSNI has been able to work towards achieving its social media strategy. The organisation can engage directly with a significant proportion of its social following in Northern Ireland and further afield, on a daily basis. With 32 Facebook pages, and 22 Twitter feeds, managing social channels effectively was challenging but with a centralised platform provided by Hootsuite, officers based in various locations in Northern Ireland can communicate in a transparent and consistent way.

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Products used in this study

Hootsuite Enterprise
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Hootsuite Insights Powered by Brandwatch
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Becoming a trusted source for information

PSNI is one of the largest territorial police services in the United Kingdom in terms of officer numbers and the second largest in terms of geographic area of responsibility. With the obligation of ensuring the safety and protection of Northern Ireland’s 1.8 million citizens, PSNI recognised it had to operate in a way that both improved policing and met the needs of the community.

PSNI took the decision to make social media a key communication channel for engaging with the public. To deliver on this goal, PSNI increased its social team from 250 to 430 over the course of three years. This team’s objective is to raise awareness of PSNI’s social media profiles as reliable sources of information for local incidents and open investigations. In addition, the team is responsible for monitoring conversations, flagging insights that could help in criminal investigations, and gathering feedback on how the police service could better serve the community. 

With Hootsuite Enterprise, PSNI has been able to deliver on these goals with ease. It provides a single dashboard for its 32 Facebook pages and 22 Twitter feeds. This has enabled the police service to have a clear overview of all its social media sites to monitor usage, content and respond effectively and with speed. In the last year, PSNI’s following has grown by 236,000 across all its social channels. This has helped the organisation to actively police with the community, gain public support and call for contributions during live-time incidents and ongoing investigations.

Using social media as a tool to solve ongoing investigations

With a growing public following its social channels, PSNI recognised the impact this community can have in delivering justice. With a social following of over 1 million, PSNI tapped into this audience to help gather information and solve cases. For example, in Mid-Ulster, a police officer shared details about a stolen tractor which prompted a member of the public to get in touch, helping in the successful recovery of the vehicle. In other regions, such as Craigavon, the team regularly shares real-time information about suspicious vehicles and rogue traders which has encouraged the public to come forward and send comments and private messages. As a result, officers in Craigavon have been able to track down vehicles and reprimand criminals involved. PSNI also relies heavily on social media to help find missing people. The team regularly share Facebook updates on the latest appeals to encourage citizens to contact them with any details that could help locate the missing. In some instances, these social posts have persuaded the subjects of these investigations to make direct contact. With Hootsuite providing a central platform for all social channels, the team can share these updates across all its profiles to maximise the chances of the missing person being found.

With Hootsuite, PSNI can also monitor and track trends and the sentiment of particular topics and conversations. For example, in Banbridge and Down, police officers took to social media to ask where people would like speed operations to take place. Through Hootsuite, PSNI was able to identify common words and sentiment to confidently deploy the operation in the areas that mattered most to the local community.

Keeping the public safe and informed during times of crisis

In January, a car bomb detonated on Bishop Street, Derry City. This incident was followed by a number of hijackings throughout the city over the course of two days. PSNI knew that the situation needed to be handled in a careful, but efficient manner to diffuse public unrest and concern. Using Hootsuite, local officers utilised local social media accounts to allow them to talk directly with local communities. From issuing information about explosions and warnings of the areas to avoid, the public was given a steady stream of news and reassurance during a time of understandable tension. PSNI also monitored comments, messages and tweets about the bombings, and responded with care to dispel any inaccuracies to avoid fake news spreading.

Promoting PSNI as an attractive place to work

In 2018, PSNI designed a social media plan to drive awareness of and publicise open vacancies at the organisation. The team recorded a number of videos to show the police service in action, and shared these on all of its social media channels to give the public unfiltered insights into what working at PSNI is truly like. The videos shared through Hootsuite created over 1.5 million impressions and reached over 800,000 people over a three week period. In addition, many of the police officers had access to PSNI’s social media channels through Hootsuite and were able to share their own experiences and advice. This helped create a more human brand experience for PSNI by showcasing the real lives and experiences of those working on the frontline. As a result, in February, posts on its corporate Facebook page drove over 10,000 people to visit the website about the role of the Business Improvement Co-ordinator and Business Improvement Officer.

The results

Using Hootsuite Analytics, PSNI has been able to monitor and track its performance across all of its 56 social media profiles, and adjust its strategy which has helped its following grow exponentially over the last few years. Analysis from Hootsuite has helped PSNI pull together relevant insights in an easy format, such as to compare the performance of all 56 social media sites, to be shared each week with all its teams. As a result, users have been motivated to be active and engagement has been boosted across all its channels in line with PSNI’s overarching goals.

PSNI continues to be the core source of policing news for Northern Ireland, and the organisation plans to continue growing its following as social media remains an important channel to provide citizens with accurate news in a human and engaging way. PSNI will continue to grow its social channels and plans to maintain and improve its response rate to customers. In addition, with Facebook and Twitter performing successfully, PSNI has launched a LinkedIn profile with the help of Hootsuite to help further promote open vacancies at the organisation.

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Hootsuite has played a huge part in helping us use social to build a safer and more secure community in Northern Ireland.
Fiona Williamson
Corporate Communications Manager

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