An attempt to connect the community of New York with their local police force by the social media team of the NYPD took a turn for the ugly yesterday, Tuesday, April 22, when their #MyNYPD photo campaign resulted in hundreds of tweeted photos of excessive force used by the department.
The campaign started out innocently enough, with the NYPD Twitter team tweeting out: "Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on our Facebook."; the purpose being to show members of the New York City community interacting with the police in a positive nature.
However, as is the case in social media campaigns concerning controversial entities, see: #AskJPMorgan, users of the social medium replied with Google images of the NYPD engaging in excessive force. The exact opposite of the intended purpose of the force's social media PR campaign.
The first blow was dealt by the official Twitter handle of Occupy Wall Street, which showed a young man being carried by all fours down the street, with the text: "Need a lift? The #NYPD's got you! Free Delivery, Only at #myNYPD."
Soon after that, the tweets poured in from all over the "Twittersphere", depicting the NYPD engaged in various acts of brutality. After a few hours, the hashtag campaign was almost completely hijacked, and tweets are still coming in today.
The campaign has even inspired users from all over the world to attach #My to their own police departments and share stories of excessive force in their communities.
Despite the backlash and the photos, the campaign appears to be still running, and some photos have been in line with the spirit of it. However, the NYPD has yet to release an official statement concerning the status of the campaign, nor post any #MyNYPD photos to their official Facebook page.
The epic failure by the NYPD social media team should serve as a lesson to Social Media Managers out there to examine all angles of a PR campaign before starting, and think about and plan for all unintended consequences. Something, one can assume, the NYPD social media team learned the hard way last night.