Last July, AASHTO asked state DOT communication officers to complete a brief survey about how states are using social media in their communication efforts. While we are beyond calling these tools “new media” they remain new enough that tracking their use and adoption seems like a good idea. The resulting report, released in August, provides a quick snapshot look at the ways in which social media tools are being used by state DOTs.
There were a couple of interesting insights gleaned from the survey results. Perhaps most significantly, Twitter is perceived by most (nearly 49 percent of respondents) as the most effective social media tool for reaching DOTs prime audiences. Facebook was cited by only a third as being the most effective tool. Linkedin, podcasts, video, blogs all were cited significantly less as being very effective.
What’s interesting about that finding is that Facebook has more than 750 million accounts. As of last February, Twitter only had 200 million accounts. YouTube.com has become the internet’s second largest search engine, yet video was hardly mentioned as one of the most effective tools. So, somehow Twitter has proven more valuable to state DOTS even through states are limited to 140 characters per message and Twitter has fewer accounts and less traffic than some of the larger communication tools available to states?
I think Twitter outperforms some of the other tools because of its mobility and how its users shift through thousands of messages to share and comment on information. More than 80 percent of adults own a cell phone and nearly half of cell phone owners have apps on their phones.
Twitter, perhaps more so than Facebook, is one of those social media sites through which most engagement takes place while people are out and about. The smartphone makes Twitter more accessible, and perhaps more interesting. The people using Twitter seem to be moving and mobile. That seems to be a perfect marriage of technology and message for the transportation communications expert.
Perhaps we should be more surprised that only half of the DOT communication officers cited Twitter? But there remain significant barriers to implementing new social media tools at state DOTs – a topic we will explore in more detail in a future post.