When Officer Anthony Nuccio walks around the Upper East Side, people recognize him.
That is because Nuccio, 36, runs the local precinct’s social media pages, a tool the entire police department is increasingly relying on for everything from crime fighting to community engagement. But what works and what does not on social media is constantly evolving, and the NYPD, like many organizations, is experimenting with different ways to maximize the payoff.
"There’s always media attached; I try not to put anything out just text . . . You tend to see people sharing or retweeting text with photos or videos. They do much better than text alone," Nuccio said. "I look back at 2014 when I started it, I did just put words out. Over the last couple years [I’ve] gotten better at it and learned how to craft tweets better. I know what I like to see; I know what I would scroll past versus what I would stop and read."
Nuccio, the 19th Precinct’s crime prevention and digital communications officer, uses Twitter to share everything from crime trends to videos about what it is like to be a traffic safety officer. He even holds courses for people in the community on how to use Twitter. And now that the precinct has a Facebook page, Nuccio can share even longer stories.
"Now you can go from our Twitter to our Facebook and learn more about a crime pattern or a really good arrest," Nuccio said, referencing the 19th Precinct’s roll out of the Facebook account in connection with the Neighborhood Coordination Officers program that launched in the precinct earlier this fall. "It’s a good companion for Twitter, you can actually tell more of a story with Facebook."
The NYPD as a whole is constantly re-examining how it uses social media. The original precinct-level Twitter pages were born when the department shifted from a centralized approach to having each area cultivate a voice, said Yael Bar-Tur, the department’s director of social media and digital strategy. There are now 127 Twitter accounts and just over 77 Facebook pages affiliated with the NYPD.
And more recently, Bar-Tur said the department is exploring things like targeted advertising on Facebook "to put out wanted posters to the area where they are . . . you get so much bang for your buck."
"In our head office, we’re keeping up with the trends, seeing what’s working," Bar-Tur added.
The NYPD began employing digital communication officers in 2016, and Bar-Tur said staff in those roles get several hours of training.
"We talk about best practices; how to tell a good story; how to take a good photo; how to maximize the chance someone will see what you posted. We talk about engagement; how to respond to people; what type of questions people might ask you," she said, adding: "We’re putting a lot of emphasis lately on mobile engagement and how to optimize photos for mobile; how to best crop it so people can see it."
And at least for Nuccio, the digital exchanges have become a great way to interact with the public he serves.
"We developed a fan club around the precinct," Nuccio joked. "When I go out in public now . . . they recognize us from social."