Talking transportation connections: Four tips for growing social media audiences

Social media in transportation is not a new concept. For several years, transportation organizations have used social media to increasingly connect with the people who use the system. 

That does not mean transportation agencies have made it easy to find them in the social space. Here are four tips to help ensure your customers are finding you. 

Put links on your web site – This seems like a no-brainer, but amazingly there are still transportation organizations that do not connect their traditional websites with their social media accounts.

In addition to links from its main hompage, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities goes so far as to include an entire page of its website to cataloging its social media accounts, along side its social media policy. Kansas DOT and other state transportation departments do the same thing. 

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Connect with other groups in the social space – Remember, the goal for social media is to build associations. It is a network of people and groups that share similar interests and pass along information that matters most. Follow and like groups that might in turn follow and like you back. For instance, a transit agency might want to connect with a local city, county or state DOT. And, a bike advocacy group will definitely want to ensure it is connecting with local city and county land use planning groups. Every community has key individuals who matter in the social space. Find them, follow them, and strike up a conversation with them.

Have a take – The key to growing a network is to have good information (content) and, maybe more importantly, to be willing to share others’ great content. That might mean touting your latest news release or transit schedule change. But it also might mean passing along a news article that talks about regional traffic congestion. 

Have a sense of humor – One of the best features of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s social media approach (full disclosure: I worked at WSDOT), is its willingness to use self-effacing humor. The community in the Seattle area, in particular, seems to enjoy the playful persona that the social media crew has created. That might not work in every area, depending on the agency leadership and the community in which the agency exists. However, social media is a wonderful way to get “government” out of the way of the conversation. Leave the bureaucratic answers and stilted comments for the commission meetings. Give the customers what they deserve, a seriously human answer to their seriously human questions. 

Just a final note, a complete list of state DOT social media accounts, sorted by state, is available from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, along with information about the annual meeting of TransComm, AASHTO’s Subcommittee on Transportation Communication, which takes place next month in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

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About Lloyd Brown

I am the director of communications for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. I enjoy running marathons and triathlons, playing guitar and spending time with family. My professional interest is in how social media and new technology shapes the communication relationship between government and the general public. I have a Master’s degree in Communications and Leadership from Gonzaga University in Spokane and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Washington State University.
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2 Responses to Talking transportation connections: Four tips for growing social media audiences

  1. The municipal operator I just joined has also just returned to social media after five years. I have found there is a lot of “low-hanging fruit”. Simply by “favoriting” pictures of our buses on Instagram (not even writing comments, since I am new and need to parse out what I can say, even if it is just “thank you”) allowed us to add about a dozen followers within 24 hours. I think those users were excited – and we were excited to see they’d hashtagged us in their captions too. Simply “hearting” content on Twitter and Instagram could go a long way. Eventually, you’ll have to move to responding directly too, if you want to harvest the full possibilities of being present on sites like Facebook and Twitter. It can pay dividends and be professionally gratifying.

    • Lloyd Brown says:

      Great comment. I think you’re right that there are many seemingly simple things that can quickly add followers and increase engagement. Good to hear you’re making that effort.

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