Socially Savvy Queensland Police Service By grace carroll

Social media has and continues to be transformative in our day-to-day lives, affecting how we as users learn, communicate, share information and express our identity (Dijck, 2013). This runs true for the Australian Queensland Police Service (QPS).

With over 800,000 likes, the QPS Facebook page continues to experience global success and is the most followed police Facebook page in the world (McKinnon, 2016).

QPS understanding on how media theories impact police officers roles and duties and communication with the public, makes it an interesting case.

This case study will examine how an understanding of media theory positively benefited QPS online reputation, ability to disseminate news and engage in a conversation with citizens. Positively facilitating change on how QPS police officers conduct certain roles and are perceived. .

Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are channels for QPS to disseminate news but also communicate and interact with citizens. In return, this has and continues to improve QPS reputation in Queensland through the comical use of photos and quirky and relatable content.

By harnessing effective techniques such as meme posts, constant and concise information, social media terminology and, understanding the nature of ‘viral’ content QPS media team are able to grow and engage a large audience.

Green and Jenkins, refer to this as spreadability and stress the aforementioned techniques as technical affordances which make it easier to circulate some kinds of media more than others (2011, p. 112).

Marwick corroborates new media entertainment should provide and depend on civic opportunities for everyday creative practices (2013, p. 5).

Memes are an effective tool to do so. The term 'meme,' coined by Dawkins describes small units of culture that spread from person to person by copying or imitation” (Shifman, 2014).

A fundamental attribute of Internet memes is intertextuality, “Like many Web 2.0 applications, memes diffuse from person to person, but shape and reflect general social mindsets" (Shifman, 2014).

Which is why meme posts and understanding the nature of viral content has worked for QPS.

QPS Facebook Post: Be On The Lookout Nickleback. Image Sourced from

The image above is an example of a successful QPS meme post. With the warning "BOLO - Be On the Look Out", the post features a caricature of the band Nickelback with the sign "Wanted for Crimes Against Music".

The underlying message urging concert goers to be safe driving around Brisbane Entertainment Centre where the band was performing.

This post reached 874,000 views in less than 24 hours and effectively got QPS message out and fostered a comical social media reputation, of which followers continue to expect.

The images below are further examples of QPS creating and embracing memes and comical and informative content on social media.

QPS Facebook Post about Barack Obama 2014 G20 Brisbane motocade. Image Sourced from
QPS Facebook post about Brisbane traffic. Image Sourced from
QPS Facebook Post on 2014 Eminem concert in Brisbane. Image Sourced from

QPS social strategy is entirely organic and it is paying off.

A senior digital media officer for QPS James Kliemt is adamant engaging content is the way to succeed on social, "by simply being human" (Kliemt quote in Herbison, 2015).

“It’s very important to us that we’re telling a story and that our fundamentals about who we are and how we deal with people are right" (Kliemt quote in Herbison, 2015).

This shaped QPS online identity and fostered a receptive audience.

I was not able to any find academic literature if QPS social media page has influenced its reputation on the street but I can talk about my own perspective.

I believe my unconscious barrier I may have unintentionally had with police officers has subsided. Even though we see police officers on the street, the content QPS posts on social media have ironically made officiers seem more human. The images below are some examples.

QPS Instagram Post about recruit training. Image Sourced from:
QPS Instagram Post about QLD Ambulance and QLD Police working together during 2017 Cyclone Debbie. Image Sourced from:

Posts about police officers are published in between information about road closures, it's organic and does not feel forced. Facilitating Kliemt’s goal of telling the fundamental stories of the police officers; who they are and how they help (Herbison, 2015).

Kliemt’s goal for QPS social media reputation transcends globally to other services, businesses and public identities.

The pinnacle of an organisations success is when a brand turns into a verb (Dijck, 2013). For example, the phenomena of “googling” now a synonym for online search. Whilst this goal is difficult for QPS to achieve, to have QPS social media accounts as the first port of call for accurate information for Queenslanders is realistic and essential.

By building and maintaining a positive and trusted social media relationship with followers, QPS has greater access to a more responsive audience. This is important given the nature of the service, especially during severe weather events to get updates out to Queenslanders.

Because of the rapport, QPS has with their social media account following, users are typically responsive in sharing QPS posts. The benefit of such interactivity QPS accredited in their 2011 Brisbane flood review.

More recently, such interactivity was critical during Cyclone Debbie. QPS used live stream tool Facebook Live to send immediate updates to citizens across the state. This meant QPS bypassed traditional media and delivered critical information to citizens first.

The core reason why QPS expressed a desire to set up a Facebook account in 2010 was to “engage in a two-way conversation between the QPS and the public” (Herbison, 2015).

Social media presents QPS with a unique opportunity to have the conversation, given how participatory culture “rewards participation. Not everyone must participate, but everyone must believe that if they participate it will be valued” (Jenkins, 2012).

By embracing participatory culture, social media has extended QPS ability to source and spread information (Jenkins, 2012).

For example, QPS harness new media enabled labour by crowdsourcing. Via social media QPS call to action the collective resources of their Facebook and Twitter accounts followers to spread and share information such as missing person cases and road closures. This is an example of a networked public given how a community has been restructured by networked technologies and has characteristics of persistence, replicability, scalability and searchability (Boyd & Ellison, 2010).

For their help citizens do not get paid, need qualifications or training, but they do gain a sense of contribution to output (Shefin, 2004).

When QPS post missing person cases on Facebook, users share the post and comment what postcode their Facebook circle is from. Crowdsourcing is “empowerment of empowerment” and is a reforming how QPS are able to share information about cases and crowd source the collective resources of their followers to achieve the same goal .

QPS Facebook post thank Facebook followers for sharing missing person case. Image sourced from

This works in favour for the QPS relationship with citizens since it has an “inclusionary vibe” (Shefin, 2004). Social media allows organisations to form alliances with their audience of which are valued contributors.

QPS employ a full-time team to monitor all of their social media accounts. As citizens can and do post incorrect or unconfirmed information about an ongoing case which can cause panic.

Kliemt’s recalls “if there’s a road fatality or something like that, we put that information out, but we can’t tell people a range of information about that incident, say the make or model of the car or something like that, because the family of victims may not know yet, and if we say it was model xyz and it was this colour and it was in this area, people start to figure it out, and the messages go like lightning among these different groups of friends, and all of a sudden people think, sometimes correctly, that it’s one of their loved ones. So we’ve got to be very cautious with all those issues” (Herbison, 2015).

As social media evolves and new issues emerge, it will continue to provide challenges and opportunities for QPS, as well as change the way the citizen perceive, communicate with and identify police officers.

QPS understanding of media theory has facilitated positive change in how and what duties police officers perform and how they are perceived. QPS and social media relationship is expected to continue to change and reform.

Reference List:

Boyd, D., & Ellison, N. (2010). Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication , 13 (1), 210-233.

Crerar, S. (2015, March 26). 29 Reasons Why Queensland Cops Are The Funniest Cops . Retrieved April 9, 2017, from Buzzfeed:

Dijck, J. v. (2013). The culture of connectivity: A critical history of social media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Herbison, M. (2015, August 27). How Queensland Police Service gets 60,000 likes on Facebook posts . Retrieved April 9, 2017, from Marketing Mag:

Jenkins, H. (2012). Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (2nd Edition ed.). New York: Taylor and Francis.

Jenkins, H., & Green, J. Spreadable Media. How Audiences Create Value and Meaning in a Networked Econom. In V. Nightingale, The Handbook of Media Audiences (pp. 109-127). Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.

Marwick, A. (2010). Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity and Branding in the Digital Age. New Haven: Yale University Press.

McKinnon, A. (2016, January 22). Queensland Police Are Amazing At Social Media, Except When Something Goes Wrong . Retrieved April 9, 2017, from Junkee:

Shefin, E. (2004). Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Participatory Fandom: Mapping New Congruencies Between the Internet and Media Entertainment Culture. Critical Studies in Media Communication , 21 (3), 261-281.

Shifman, L. (2014). Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge: MIT Press.

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