NYPD Blues: Twitter Campaign Backfires

Social media is a great marketing tool but as the New York Police Department (NYPD) learned Tuesday, things can quickly backfire if an organization has a large number of critics. The NYPD social media team asked its followers on Twitter to post pictures of themselves with police officers, but instead of being inundated with positive photos, the pics that got the most attention were of alleged police brutality.

The NYPD created its own hashtag for people to share their photos, #myNYPD, but within minutes that hashtag was taken over by people who wanted to criticize the department. Whether or not the photos that were shared actually depict police brutality can be debated, but one thing is obvious, an organization that garners as much criticism as it does praise needs to be careful on any social network.

Hijacked Hashtag

While there were a few positive tweets with pictures of regular citizens standing next to smiling police officers, the most popular tweets were quite the opposite. Minutes after the original NYPD post went live, tweets were pouring in with the majority showing police officers arresting individuals in what could be considered an aggressive manner.

Given the nature and environment of Twitter, the social media team should have anticipated this kind outcome. The largest segment of the Twitter population are those under the age of 30 and when broken down further, teenagers have been a driving force for the social network.

Since, as some say, the NYPD has disproportionately targeted young people in the past, it is not surprising that Twitter users would respond in a negative way. According to data from the NYPD Stop and Frisk initiative -- a widely criticized program that allowed police officers to search individuals -- more than 340,000 people between the ages of 14 and 24 were stopped...

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