As the world lauds their viral #VikramLanderFound tweet, we talk to the cops and unravel the Nagpur City Police social media strategy.
When in 2016, Assistant Police Inspector Vishal Mane got posted at the Cyber Cell of Nagpur City Police, there was an uphill task waiting in the offing. The cops had to figure ways of how to communicate with citizens on social media while staying within the many restrictions that govern the public conversations involving police forces.
An overwhelming sense of humble pride can be gauged in his voice as he describes the journey behind these numbers as a learning experience. A major chunk of the efforts put in to establish the social media presence of the force came from their understanding of the platform, which grew over time as well as observing their counterparts in Mumbai.
At the Nagpur City Police Cyber Cell, there are two police officers and three constables in the team, which monitors the social media presence and incoming queries and tweets.
Nagpur City Police Social Media Strategy
About 800 kilometres away, in Mumbai Police Headquarters, another team sits at the control room, monitoring about 60 incoming tweets in an hour. In Nagpur, however, the number of incoming tweets is just about two or three in a day. The disparity in numbers is striking.
“It is important to understand that we function in a very different way from Mumbai and that the social media usage of people here too is very different,” explains Mane. In many ways, their team is setting up the foundation of effective communication that the locals can utilise to their benefit, as and when they require.
So, while at least five police personnel sit glued to their screens in Mumbai, reading through a flurry of tweets, in Nagpur, things are pretty slow with the personnel skimming through tweets as frequently as one would check WhatsApp. The composition and concerns of the force, as well as their work patterns, differ to a great extent. The major driving force behind their creative presence though is awareness-based information dissemination.
From time to time, external agencies have chipped in skill-building lessons to help the cops understand the technical aspects of social media platforms, tools, and dashboards.
In 2017, the response to the creatives put up by the Mumbai Police gave the ones in Nagpur a confidence booster to take the meme way out. It wasn’t an easy decision for posting memes as a police force is a tricky path where they must tiptoe around the edges, staying away from getting trolled. So far, they have been lucky in this respect.
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Taking the meme way out
In fact, about two days ago, they were lauded for their #VikramLanderFound tweet. “We were a little scared about the kind of response we would get for this tweet. Thankfully, the response was positive,” says API Mane.
This is where he tells us about Tahauddin, a 20-year-old third-year law student, who has been helping them communicate in an innovative fashion and create memes for the past two years.
When the Priya Prakash Varrier meme went viral in 2018, Dr K Venkatesham, the current Pune Police Commissioner, was posted as Police Commissioner in Nagpur. It was him who had spotted Tahauddin’s creativity. Since then, the 20-year-old has become an integral part of Nagpur Police’s social media presence. He enthusiastically tells us about his role in helping add creativity to the social media presence of Nagpur Police.
Tahauddin regularly meets with and stays in touch with the Cyber Cell police personnel, and together, they ponder on ideas and debate restrictions. The discussions are extensive where trending campaign ideas are shaped to appear acceptable through the razor-sharp, critical lens of the police.
“I have always had an affinity towards creating content and have been really active on Twitter,” he tells us. This combination has helped him understand and maneuver through the best and worst of the three worlds he juggles between — creativity, social media and police personnel. At present, there is no formal association between Tahauddin and the police.
Details that shape communication
Nagpur City Police’s presence on Instagram is negligible. On Facebook, they don’t get as good a response as on Twitter, which is the main platform being used by them currently. API Mane explains, “Twitter is a serious platform that is being used by people to be vocal and engage in conversations that matter. Facebook and Instagram are being used for more casual communication,” adding that the police is trying to align themselves as per these patterns and evolve according to the way people communicate.
“The important part is to talk in a way that people understand,” he tells us. Though their understanding and usage of the platforms are very different from that of a digital agency, it is apparent that they know what they are doing. This reflects in how they use language on Twitter.
“Tweeting in English helps us garner more attention than the ones in Marathi. However, when the information is such that we need to target the people in Maharashtra, for example when we are talking about flood relief, we prefer to talk in Marathi,” explains API Mane.
Nagpur Police has separate handles for its traffic department and rural police. Most of the communication revolves around rules and traffic violations. The cops often share newspaper clippings and links to articles that pertain to their work. Images documenting the various events organised for the personnel are also shared quite often.
Another set of tweets that make up for a huge chunk of their presence are retweets of various relevant police and state government agencies.