In the latest example of tweeting gone wrong, the New York Police Department found out the hard way that it might not be a good idea to ask twitter users to submit their photos of the city’s police officers.
In a statement released earlier this week, NYPD Deputy Chief Kim Royster said, “The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community. Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city.” Instead of posting uplifting pictures of the city’s cops, though, many hijacked the #myNYPD hashtag in order to post photos of police brutality — an often criticized issue with the city’s forces.
One image of several officers escorting an elderly gentleman with bloodied cheeksreads, “thanks #mynypd for beating up octogenarian jaywalkers. I feel safer.” Many of the tweets are similarly tongue-in-cheek. The NYPD, tasked with keeping over 8 million New Yorkers in line, have a reputation for initiating uninstigated brutality and racial stereotyping. Although the response has been largely negative, there have been, of course, several people posting inoffensive pictures of themselves with NYPD officers around the city.
“Social media is a volatile world,” explains Derek Bryan, Content Marketing Manager with Quez Media Marketing. “You always have to be prepared for the worst case scenario. ‘If I post this, what is the worst that could happen?’ If you’re not asking yourself that question, you are probably setting up for failure.”
The trending twist to this story is reminiscent of earlier social media campaigns that went down unintended paths. In 2012, McDonald’s tried to start up a #McStories campaign that quickly led to many users bashing the fast-food chain. As Julia Moran Martz tweeted in response to the NYPD debacle, “Lesson number 1 about hashtags: just because you created one doesn’t mean you own it.” A good lesson for organizations and companies to keep in mind before inviting the public to weigh in on their services.