Transportation organizations have important information to share with the traveling public. That’s especially true during natural disasters when maintenance crews and first responders are often the first people surveying damage and assessing the status of infrastructure leading to people’s homes and businesses.
Last month, Pew Research Center and the Knight Foundation published the latest report that shows nearly half of U.S. adults are getting their news from Facebook. Meanwhile, the annual State of the News Media report found a continued decline in local daily newspaper circulation (down 7 percent) and local TV news viewership (down 5 percent late night and down 2 percent mornings).
The 2015 AASHTO State DOT Social Media survey found that 90 percent of state DOTs were using Facebook and a slightly higher percentage are using Twitter. Meanwhile, just more than half of respondents (52 percent) said their agency uses Facebook for emergency notifications.
Perhaps based on the ongoing media consumption trends, transportation organizations should consider Facebook as an increasingly important emergency communication tool that can be deployed to great effect during natural disasters.
Last week, the West Virginia Department of Transportation was among a number of state and local agencies responding to unprecedented flash flooding that affected large portions of the state. Clearly, Facebook was a tool that supported the WVDOT’s outreach to its customers. WVDOT posted a simple video Saturday morning along wtih an update that said, “This is what we are dealing with in Greenbrier County…pavement destroyed, roads washed away.” So far, it’s garnered more than 633,000 views. The entire population of West Virginia’s Greenbrier County is less than 36,000 residents.
With numbers like that, it might be time to abandon terms like “social media” and accept that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other similar sharing sites are today’s version of what we used to call “mass media.”