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With hashtags, favourites and selfies now well and truly part of our everyday conversations – there’s even a song about the latter – it’s no surprise that small businesses and large corporations alike are jumping on the social media bandwagon at any given opportunity.

It only takes a quick look at the recent “no make-up selfie” trend on social media, to see how quickly a campaign can sweep the nation – and the world.

But what happens when a seemingly innocent and fun campaign has unintended consequences?

The New York Police Department came under fire this week after encouraging its Twitter followers to share their selfies with officers, under the hashtag #myNYPD. Unfortunately, the invite to showcase the police department’s finest backfired when users bombarded the feed with images of police brutality, even going as far as to list the names of those shot dead by the police.

The NYPD refused to answer questions on the apparent blunder, but did release a short statement saying that they were “creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community”.

While the idea behind the campaign may have had the city’s best interests at its heart, there’s little doubt that it’s put the NYPD under the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

That said, there are times when emergency services can get on board with social media trends and reach out to the public. For example, Greater Manchester Police successfully ran a live feed of every incident it dealt with over a 24-hour period back in 2010, with the goal of giving a clearer picture of the types of incidents they respond to on a regular basis. As a result of the short campaign, the police’s Twitter followers soared from 3,000 to 14,000.

So, while it’s useful to engage with the Twittersphere and keep abreast of all things ‘social’, the NYPD’s mishap serves as a salutary lesson on the importance of thinking through a campaign before going live.