Think social media is just a way to let your friends know what you had for breakfast?  Think again.  The depth of social media is growing. Businesses and organizations are getting creative with how they leverage it to reach the masses, often in unexpected, yet highly effective ways.

Wednesday, the Philadelphia Police Department did just that! A man in Philly attempted to abduct a young girl in broad daylight and the whole thing was caught on surveillance tape. Police are unable to identify the man directly from the tape, so they’re spreading the word (and the video!) through the communication lines of social media. That’s right – Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They’re using them all!  The video was released Wednesday on the Philadelphia Police Department’s YouTube page. From there it was shared on Facebook and Tweeted out. Let the wildfire begin! Just this morning, the department Tweeted to announce a $10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of a suspect in the attempted kidnapping.

The department has had great success in the past with social media. According to their website, the Philadelphia Police YouTube channel has surpassed 1 million hits, and I’m sure with the recent media coverage, that number will climb. Quickly! The department values their community’s commitment to help. In the last year, Philadelphia Police have captured 85 fugitives using social media, including alleged rapists and murderers. It seems the police have found the golden ticket. An easy, efficient, FAST way to spread a message and gather information. They’re solving an unprecedented 25% of crimes for which videos have been released to the public.

Instant. Plain and simple.  Police don’t have to wait for the evening news to release footage and a call for help. They can instantly sound the alarm and gain support. Time is of the essence, and with social media on their side, they are one step closer to solving crimes. With over 44,400 likes on Facebook, the department has a deep reach into the community. A quick scroll through their timeline will reveal video after video of suspects wanted for crimes. If they’re solving 1 out of every 4 of those crimes with the help of Social Media, I’d call that a huge success!

So what can the rest of us learn from this? Don’t limit yourself (or your company!). Think hard about how social media operates and how you can make it work for YOU. Engage and empower your audience and you’ll be amazed at the results.

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