POLICE have always been associated with a certain seriousness and their constant alerts about safety, traffic rules and drunken driving in the newspapers and billboards sound like the warnings on cigarette packs about smoking being injurious to health which we ignore, of course.

But we are happy to report that, of late, the Indian police have figured the perfect way to preach: social media! Their witty jibes and memes using Jon Snow, Pablo Escobar, Irrfan Khan and many more have been applauded across the country, especially by the youth. And mind you, they can be pretty savage.

A tweet by the Bangalore Police, for instance, quotes a line from the popular  TV series, Game Of Thrones, which aims to teach people to strictly follow traffic rules. It had Twitter going overboard with the post gaining 500 retweets in less than 24 hours!

This kind of offbeat humour setting the theme for discussion has proven to be effective. The cops have accomplished two tasks with one post: of gaining new followers who keep their ingenious campaign on safety alive by engaging, sharing and retweeting, and being able to connect with citizens and get their message across in a simple way. Hence, they are winning several young hearts across the country.

However, hitting the right note came after a bit of trial and error. The police force in Mumbai, for example, initially launched a YouTube channel in 2011 which did not receive such an enthusiastic following. People found it boring and unoriginal, and the content missed the target of spreading awareness on pressing issues. We live in a world where all it takes to miss something is a scroll. So, an uninteresting video probably wouldn’t get a second glance – but Shahid Kapoor most certainly would…and did!

From using Harry Potter and Bollywood icons like Irrfan Khan and captivating one-liners, the Indian police have added a ‘coolness’ factor to their messaging – like the main image referring to Joey from American TV hit Friends. Many police departments in metros now have a social media unit where assigned individuals are solely responsible for creating these memes and quirky tweets, responses to which are monitored and analysed to see what works and what doesn’t. This drives the social media team to keep themselves updated on popular trends or ‘on brand’.

It’s intriguing to see how something so seemingly easy and quick has had such a big reach. By using social media in a creative way Indian police forces, especially in Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Delhi have taken down the wall between them and the public. They seem far more approachable than before, which has always been one of the main complaints of citizens against the men in uniform across the country.

After creating a buzz on Facebook and Twitter, the Bengaluru Police have been going all out on Snapchat. It’s heartwarming to see the police making an effort to ensure their warnings not only reach the public but also remain in their digital circuit  – and minds – longer than they usually do.

So…what next?

– by Tarshaa Krishnaraj

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