Gardaí are ‘cautious, playful’ on social media

The gardaí have a “cautionary approach” to social media and engage with it in a “playful” manner, according to research.

Almost 200,000 people engage with Garda social media accounts, or roughly 5% of the population over 15. The bulk of them interact with its two Twitter accounts (120,000 people) and its two Facebook sites (71,000).

A new book, Social Media Under Investigation, said the force was a relatively late converter to Twitter, with its @gardatraffic account starting in May 2011 (98,800 followers) and its corporate @gardinfo handle beginning in July 2013 (24,000).

The force’s Facebook page has 61,000 likes.

“An Garda Síochána’s use of social media could be described as explorative, playful and personable, but in terms of strategy largely underdeveloped,” said author Joanne Sweeney-Burke, a media communications businesswoman and former journalist.

“It’s clear that An Garda Síochána is fearful of the way in which social media may be used by the general public as both an information gathering and sharing forum in terms of having a negative effect on investigations or surveillance operations and the fact that social media is currently largely uncontrolled.”

She said that “perhaps surprisingly” gardaí can be “playful” in use of social media and detailed tweets in relation to the Garth Brooks drama last July.

“Humanising the Garda organisation and using a personal approach in social media engagement is now a very evident strategy by An Garda Síochána,” she said.

Figures she gathered show that 196,000 people engaged with Garda social media sites, as of last November.

She said gardaí have “humour at the heart” of their @gardatraffic account. She said that while social media was widely used in the force there was potential to use it to empower Garda units and divisions and aid in criminal investigations.


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