Right in the middle of recordings of police operations, short cuts, fast music – and a friendly speech. Last year, the Hessian police advertised the offspring on Instagram. The Berlin police, who are also active in social networks, rely on slogans like this: “Excellent training and still end up on the street.” The police in North Rhine-Westphalia also seek contact with young people in social networks such as Facebook, YouTube and TikTok Identified the “main gateway” to potential applicants.
Social media as a means of recruiting – what is still a book with seven seals for many training companies has been a matter of course for the police in some federal states for years.
Indispensable for recruiting young talent
In Hesse, for example, the police have been promoting the next generation of police since 2014, back then on Facebook, but now also on YouTube and on Instagram. “The social networks are an indispensable part of recruiting young people, also to represent the diversity of the police profession and to come into direct contact regularly with interested parties via the comment and news function,” says the police chief inspector and spokesman for the Hesse Police Academy, Mark-Alexander Mouse. The numbers look to be successful: while the number of applicants in 2016 was 6340, it rose to 8335 in 2020, as reported by the Hesse Police Academy.
The value of social media for recruiting young police officers has also been recognized in North Rhine-Westphalia. “The NRW police want to be where the people are. The police can be contacted virtually through social media, ”says Interior Ministry spokesman Markus Niesczery. Especially in times of the corona pandemic, the police reach more people via social media than almost any other medium – “practically in real time”. The police in North Rhine-Westphalia look after over 120 social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn and Xing. On Facebook alone, more than 982,000 people followed the NRW police account by mid-March. According to the Interior Ministry, that is almost 20 percent more than in the previous year.
Feedback via social media
The Berlin police state, according to their own statements, that contributions and posts to the application are very well received by the authority. There is a lot of good feedback and also direct inquiries on the individual channels, explains Anke Spielmann from the social media team of the Berlin police. “A lot of direct messages about the recruitment process are answered on Instagram in particular.” Positive response also create the TikTok channel, which has existed since January 2021 and had more than 24,000 followers by mid-March. The police in North Rhine-Westphalia were followed by 159,000 fans. Videos of dance choreographies by uniformed officers were sometimes liked hundreds of thousands of times. The video with the greatest reach achieved 4.3 million views, said Markus Niesczery.
But not every social network is equally well suited to reaching young people, as Michael Heister from the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training reports. The target group of 16- to 24-year-olds is now hardly on Facebook, now less on Instagram, but mostly active on TikTok, said the expert, who is also active as an honorary professor at the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences. The popular short video app from China, which privacy advocates are extremely critical, had around 800 million users by the beginning of March. The clear majority are between 16 and 24 years old, their user quota is 69 percent, says Michael Heister. For comparison: Instagram reaches its highest rate – at 33 percent – according to Heister’s information among 25 to 33-year-olds.
External presentation and personnel recruitment
When it comes to filling vacancies, social media are playing an increasingly important role not only in the police force, but also in private companies. Ten years ago, companies were only looking for suitable applicants via social media in only around eight percent of all positions subject to social security contributions, says Alexander Kubis from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB).
In 2019, 30 percent of the vacancies were filled. As an instrument for external presentation, social media are not a novelty for many companies and institutions. “However, it has only recently been used more and more in individual companies as a means of company personnel recruitment,” explains Kubis.
“Create a feeling of we”
But what about the seriousness and authority of the police officer when he portrays himself as a funny friend on the Internet? “Proactive communication combined with dialogue creates trust in police work,” says Anke Spielmann. The target group-specific language in social media offers the opportunity for citizen-oriented communication. “And the action in the city is definitely suitable for entertainment in one place or another.”
The police in North Rhine-Westphalia see it similarly: There could be individual occasions when a post with a wink is offered, says Markus Niesczery. “Here the police can show humanity and create a sense of togetherness, but professionalism must never be lost.”