Two weeks ago, the NYPD police department Twitter page asked followers to tweet a picture with a member of the NYPD using the hashtag #myNYPD. To incentivise followers to participate, the NYPD promised to feature some of the photos on their facebook page. The NYPD kicked off the campaign on their Twitter page by posting smiling police officers with a equally happy citizen.
The Twitter campaign backfired when users began to post pictures mocking the NYPD, as well as photos that users said displayed police brutality. One user posted an officer pulling on a suspect’s hair with the caption “the #NYPD will also help you detangle your hair #myNYPD”.
This failed social media campaign joins the ranks of several other brands, like McDonalds and Entenmann’s, who attempted to engage their audiences on social platforms like Twitter but found their hashtags hijacked by negative comments.
Despite the majority of Twitter users using #myNYPD to post negative photos, a spokesperson for the NYPD said Twitter provides an open forum to effectively communicate and will use social media in the future.
The NYPD twitter campaign backfire can be used as a learning lesson for other brands hoping to engage with users online via a hashtag. For one, brands must keep in mind that anyone can use their hashtag. This can turn a well meant hashtag like #myNYPD into negative publicity.
Secondly, not all organizations and brands should choose Twitter to interact with community members. The NYPD had a good idea to open up dialogue between the police department and New Yorkers, but should have chosen a different outlet in order to facilitate the conversation better. Without a proper backstory on the vast amount of negative photos, it makes the NYPD officers look brutal.
The NYPD does deserve some credit, however. They had good intentions in trying to open up a dialogue between New Yorkers and the police to create a more cohesive community. Now, the NYPD can take the negative photos and turn them into a re-branding opportunity. The NYPD also deserves credit for addressing the negative photos instead of only focussing on the positive images.
By: Betsey Coulbourn
Betsey is a junior Political Science major with a triple minor in journalism, political communication, and Islamic studies. She currently serves as Operations Director for PRSSA-UD and will serve as Historian for the 2014-2015 academic year. In addition to being on the PRSSA-UD executive board, she is a public relations intern for Communities in Schools of Delaware, a field intern for Chris Coons for Delaware, a member of Active Minds, and a staff reporter for the Review. Connect with her on Twitter @betC__.