Who in Spain has almost 700,000 Twitter followers, 70,000 Facebook friends and more than 4 million YouTube video views? If you guessed one of the country’s leading actors, artists, musicians or bands, you’ve guessed wrong. It’s actually the National Police, Policia. In fact, the agency is nipping on the heels of the FBI when it comes to the most Twitter followers in the country.
Carlos Fernandez Guerra is behind the phenomenon, acting as the social media manager for the force based in Madrid. This isn’t just a local achievement; the Spanish police hold the title as the most retweeted of any government institution. On average, the agency gets about 16,000 retweets per week, according to Guerra. “While the FBI mostly publishes statements, we are more proactive and use social media in a preventive way. We find Twitter the most useful communication tool to connect with citizens and chase criminals.”
It’s easy, it’s cheap, it works — so what is Spain doing that others aren’t?
Using available tools
In the beginning, social media platforms were designed to help people connect, but the Spanish police have found that it’s also the cheapest and most effective way to fight crime. “Twitter and social media in general have provided us with a very important platform to reach citizens massively as our budget is very low,” Guerra says.
Their followers include everyone from teenagers to managers of logistics companies to Olympians like Mireia Belmonte, and all of them are fighting for the right side — doesn’t everyone want to be a hero?
This force has been tweeting since 2009, but it took the new director general Ignacio Cosida to ensure that things really started heating up. By leaning on “provocative” tweets like “Ayudanos y les trincaremos” (help us, and we will capture them), as well as peppering the tweets with lingo comparing drugs to excrement, the force has managed to capture the attention and approval of thousands. Follow the Spanish Police at @Policia to get a better idea.
The force also create hashtags, such as the recently coined #pedetecorporativo, which means “corporate drunkenness,” and that’s certainly caught on quickly. However, it’s still doing good, reminding people to not drink and drive during those holiday parties. In early 2013, the force shared the agency’s open email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and it’s since received 500 emailed tips for drug dealers alone. This led to 350 arrests, over 450 kilos of drugs like cocaine and pot seized, and a brand new hashtag: #tweetraid.
Police agencies around the world have taken note, particularly in Latin America, and are looking to Spain for insight on how to optimize their online presence. A professor at the IE Business School in Madrid, Enrique Dans, says, “They’ve been very smart in understanding how community management works, and have been effective in communicating and responding to citizens in a colloquial and close way.”
Madrid police are also tackling child pornography, sex abusers, criminals threatening celebrities and scam artists, but all while keeping their charm like their tweet during the last episode of “Breaking Bad”: “If you play Breaking Bad, you’ll end in a scene from Prison Break.”
Here’s hoping we get to hear more on this during SMW Barcelona!