Spain’s National Police have 680,000 followers on Twitter, making it the second most followed law enforcement agency after the FBI.
Carlos Fernandez Guerra, the police agency’s social media manager, revealed that it is also the most retweeted government institution in the world, averaging 16,000 times per week.
The Madrid-based police agency also have 70,000 friends on Facebook, whilst their YouTube videos garnered over 4.2 million views.
Unlike the FBI, which mostly publishes statements, Fernandez explained that they are more proactive and use the social media in a preventive manner.
“We find Twitter the most useful communication tool to connect with citizens and chase criminals,” he said.
He noted that social media and Twitter have provided them with a very important platform to reach out to a massive number of citizens while staying within their very limited budget.
While the Spanish police have been on Twitter since 2009, it was not until the arrival of a more tech-savvy director general, Ignacio Cosido, that their social media efforts really took off.
A former financial journalist, Fernandez also helped boost the agency’s popularity by coming up with provocative tweets like “Ayúdanos y les trincaremos”, which means “Help us and we’ll capture them.”
Recently, it created the hashtag #pedetecorporativo, which translates to “corporate drunkenness”, in order to remind people not to drink during company Christmas parties if they intend to drive.
With their success, other police departments from across the globe, particularly in Latin America, are looking at their Spanish friends to learn to use social media to capture criminals.
“They’ve been very smart in understanding how community management works, and have been effective in communicating and responding to citizens in a colloquial and close way,” noted Enrique Dans, an information systems professor at IE Business School in Madrid.