How Wiltshire Police Use Social Media To Provide Immediate Responses To The Public

Formed in 1839, Wiltshire Police is the oldest force in the country. The Force is responsible for policing the county of Wiltshire and Borough of Swindon in South West England with more than 2000 police officers, police staff and community support volunteers working round the clock. The Force serves a population of 684,000 people across 1,346 square miles, including the towns of Swindon, Salisbury and Chippenham. It is also home to Stonehenge World Heritage site and the M4 corridor.

Neighbourhood policing teams

Policing area hubs

Square miles area to police

Social media accounts

The Background

Wiltshire Police has seen a significant change in how the public look for updates from the police, rather than just referring to websites or more traditional channels of communication. This change in social media use has seen the Force move from managing a couple of social media accounts to over 68 active accounts, including 24 Neighbourhood Policing Team Facebook pages, several senior staff Twitter accounts and community group Facebook pages, such as ‘Horsewatch’.

The Challenges

  • Instantly respond to the public as people increasingly use social media to report crimes and incidents.
  • Find effective ways to manage police work and engage in the community within operating budget reductions.
  • Maintain a bird’s eye view, while providing local Neighbourhood Policing Teams and community groups autonomy to manage their own Facebook pages.
  • The requirement for an audit trail of all contacts, activity and posts across multiple accounts.
  • The need to monitor content and on-line chatter around possible events or ‘sensitive topics’ happening in the area.
  • Moderate content that is posted online and retain records centrally.

 In a nutshell

“SoCrowd is the tool that enables us to literally ‘police’ what our staff are doing on our official accounts. However, mostly we find that SoCrowd enables us to ensure we are consistent in our customer care to the public by picking up messages and information when officers are not able to.”

The Wiltshire Police reviewed several systems, choosing SoCrowd for its ability to provide access to all of the Force’s social media accounts from a single dashboard, rather than having to log in to several different sites.

Using SoCrowd has allowed the Force’s use of social media to grow, enabling officers and staff to engage directly with the public whilst managing the reputational risk and delivering a meaningful service to the community.

Like all public sector organisations, Wiltshire Police is facing times of austerity and has to meet the changing nature of crime with reduced budgets, yet still provide a highly professional and visible service. SoCrowd provided a solution that met the Force’s needs cost efficiently.

“As we have a huge amount of activity on the Force’s social media accounts, SoCrowd means that our department can maintain an overview and assess the risk, manage the problems and respond where necessary to ensure the public are getting a quality service from Wiltshire Police. It has made monitoring all of our social media accounts simpler and less time consuming.”

 How we got here

Wiltshire Police is able to successfully manage its interactions with the public on social media, both reactively and proactively.

The social media accounts have been divided among the members of the corporate communications team, including the press and media office, all of whom have access to the SoCrowd platform. Several members of the call centre control room also use the system and assist with out of hours monitoring of posts and replies, flagging any issues to the appropriate people.

Everyone given access to the system is trained to use it and sent an electronic copy of the Force Media Guide. Each member of staff has responsibility for monitoring their accounts daily, with a ‘deputy’ to monitor it when the lead member of staff is unwell or on leave. A single dashboard enables the communications staff to manage multiple accounts, while an audit trail ensures responses are managed and recorded. In addition to this, content that is posted onto public pages can be deleted if it is deemed inappropriate, with a record remaining if required for audit in the future.

Using SoCrowd also allows the team to monitor the online chatter and moderate the content being posted. A recent illegal rave in Swindon meant that social media became particularly active – this was a critical incident for Wiltshire Police. The Force received hundreds of posts from the public, including trolling, which it was able to monitor and delete any offensive posts. SoCrowd enabled the Force to have a clear strategy to manage the posts and delete the offensive ones, controlling a potentially inflammatory situation.

“We have seen how social media has become one of the most effective tools in terms of ‘customer’ care and how we communicate with the public. In recent months we have had continued success in identifying wanted suspects by appealing to the on-line community to assist. In one instance, the offender was at the police station within thirty minutes of a social media post giving himself up. Although we cannot put a figure on it, this type of use of social networks will certainly contribute to saving thousands of pounds worth of police time and resources.”


The Force has grown from managing a couple of social media accounts to over 68 active accounts, including the Neighbourhood Policing Team Facebook pages, HQ Twitter accounts and community Facebook pages.

  • Police time and resources saved through posting videos from CCTV and engaging public support for information appeals.
  • Increased local public engagement via the 24 Neighbourhood Policing Teams and Community groups’ Facebook pages.
  • Ability to monitor online chatter and topics enables swift action if required to manage incident risk.
  • Online content can be monitored, deleted and a record kept for future use.
  • Audit trail of when people were last logged in and when accounts are inactive available for management.
  • Platform allows 15 Corporate Communications officers to have access and oversee all social media accounts, in addition to local teams accessing their own Facebook accounts.

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