Bristol crocodile: a social media masterclass?

The Bristol crocodile: a social media masterclass

February 4, 2014

By the time you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re aware there may – or may not – be a crocodile on the loose in Bristol.

So here’s a fully deserved hat tip to Avon and Somerset Police for its excellent approach over communicating a potentially serious situation in such an amusing and direct manner over Twitter.

The force received a call yesterday (Monday) from a concerned bus driver stating that a six foot reptile had been spotted lurking under a city bridge.

As a result, Avon and Somerset Police chief constable Nick Gargan tweeted out the following response: “One of our officers was flagged down by a bus driver today, claiming to have seen a 6ft crocodile under Coronation Bridge. We can’t find it.”

Asked by a member of the public whether this meant a crocodile was on the loose in Bristol, he replied: “@princessofvp it may mean precisely that, madam. No need to stay indoors – but you may want to think twice before you go water-skiing.”

The reptile has yet to be found. However it – somewhat predictably – already has its own Twitter account – @thebristolcroc.

Whether or not the creature is ever discovered, the comms approach of the Avon and Somerset Police towards its audience should be applauded – for the following reasons:

* Clarity. The tweets may be short on characters but contain plenty of punch. They are direct and to the point – spelling out the key message with minimum fuss.

* Tone. This is essential. A crocodile wandering the streets of a large UK city could cause panic. However the tongue-in-cheek style of the tweets introduced a nice element of humour into the situation. Responses to members of the public were also kept formal, but light-hearted.

* Timing. We know striking while the iron is hot is a fundamental part of social media success. Not only did the story break on social media, but the force answered questions and retweeted comments from followers – promoting engagement with their content.

* Senior management buy-in. The chief constable broke the news of the story on Twitter – displaying his faith and understanding of the effectiveness of social media as a bona fida comms channel.

* Understanding. The nature of Twitter means that feedback – in all its guises – is inevitable. Avon and Somerset Police was prepared – and more than happy – to deal with the audience’s responses and comments.