How do you create some good spin around a police department better known for crooked cops, police brutality and racism? If you're the NYPD, you road test this newfangled thing called "social media". Yesterday, the Twitter account for the New York Police Department tweeted these innocuous lines:
Uh oh. Within hours, the hashtag was flooded with images of police brutality. #myNYPD started trending in America. And while there were a few people who shared the kind of images the NYPD were hoping to receive, pictures of lame tourists with NYC's finest pale in comparison to these stark images of police violence:
Even dogs were not spared:
To date, the NYPD has yet to share any images on its Facebook as promised. It's also only retweeted four pictures of NYPD officers with happy, non-abused and non-assaulted members of the public since the hashtag launched 16 hours ago. It's not just a bad social media campaign; this is like the anti-social media campaign. Anything that the #myNYPD touches, it annihilates and turns into bad press. It's like PR antimatter.
This is not the first time Twitter has spectacularly backfired on the establishment. Americans will fondly remember #AskJPM, the live Twitter Q&A in which JP Morgan vice-chairman Jimmy Lee was faced with questions like “Did you always want to be part of a vast, corrupt criminal enterprise or did you 'break bad'?" and "“What section of the poor & disenfranchised have you yet to exploit for profit, & how are you working to address that?"
Across the pond, UK Twitter users can probably lay claim to hijacking the most number of badly-aimed social media campaigns, starting with the #AskBG hashtag for British Gas:
But authority figures never learn, especially in the case of London mayor Boris Johnson, who launched his own #askboris hashtag to promote his appearance on LBC Radio:
First lesson for big corporations, bad cops and polarising political figures: do not ask Twitter anything, and especially do not ask for pics.
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing