It’s cold out there and the Maryland State Highway Administration — like most highway and transportation agencies around the country — has plenty of tips and suggestions to help people travel safely during difficult weather events. But it is where and how SHA is posting its information that is rather interesting.
While many state DOTs and other transportation agencies have actively utilized Twitter and Facebook for several years, video services like Instagram and Vine, which allow smartphone users to record short video messages, are still emerging tools. SoundCloud, an audio hosting service, is popular with musicians but remains relatively unknown in transportation circles.
SHA Communication Director Valerie Burnette Edgar told me her team turned to SoundCloud primarily to share audio with the media. But the public picked up on it, too.
“SoundCloud is a rapidly growing tool that helps us disseminate critical information, particularly during winter weather events. As an audio platform, we can also use it to convey and encourage folks to share our safety PSA’s and other audio projects,” said Charlie Gischlar, SHA public information officer. “Most radio stations are on SoundCloud and appreciate that they can simply open a URL to obtain actuality bits for news and public affairs programming. Additionally, the hyperlinks enable us to embed them in releases for use by Statewide and national media.”
— MD State Highway Adm (@MDSHA) December 10, 2013
Edgar says that in December, there were more than 4,270 “plays” of the SHA audio content on SoundCloud because SHA is routinely sharing links on their Twitter and Facebook accounts. And, Edgar said that the local radio station reporters who lobbied for a move toward the use of social audio tools are thrilled.
Instagram, meanwhile, allows SHA to similarly embed video in their Facebook feed.
Edgar says that SHA has not “officially launched” the Instagram account, but they have embedded it as a feed within the Facebook page. It works nicely and features a variety of 15 second videos.
She said that SHA is experimenting with Vine and Pinterest, too.
When asked about special tools and costs related to the video and audio files, SHA folks said they were utilizing the free apps available for their smartphones.
Indeed, it seems that while the snow plow drivers and transportation engineers continue to search for innovative tools for managing transportation systems during extreme events, their dedicated transportation communication teams are also in pursuit of innovation. Tune in and see for yourself.