There is no shortage of creativity in transportation communications. In this example, the folks at Oregon Department of Transportation and Metro – the Portland area regional government – turned to a Northwest icon to help educate motorists about pedestrian crossings.
Not every current event is appropriate for a transportation social media feed. But the folks at Washington State Department of Transportation continue to show off their deft ability to connect with their audiences by tying in with the latest Pokemon game.
Release July 7, Pokemon Go challenges players to find Pokemon characters – in the real world. So basically, people are walking around – or worse driving around – looking for these virtual characters. Clearly, a word of safety advice is in order here, right?
Here’s the tweet from @wsdot:
And before you think that WSDOT was just overly opportunistic, consider this item posted on Vine: (editor’s note: the Vine was deleted from the site. But visit Vine to see other examples.)
And there are even people who in just the first week think walking and playing the game is too “boring.” So, they are trying to figure out how to drive and play the game “safely.”
As if the world of driving wasn’t already difficult enough!
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 White House is there. Departments of health have accounts. Even departments of wildlife and interior have created Snapchat accounts. But state DOTs are still not embracing the fast-growing social medium popular with teens and young adults.
The exception is Mississippi DOT, which in April partnered with a local Mississippi-based creative firm Godwin Group to engage youth and their parents at a safety fair in Jackson.
According to MDOT’s Rob Pettit, the DOT used custom geofilters to create a unique experience for safety fair attendees. Continue reading “Snapchat still not gaining traction with state DOTs”
National Work Zone Awareness week runs April 11-15 and its theme this year is “Don’t Be That Driver.”
The Ohio Department of Transportation, the host of this year’s national kick-off event near Toledo, has developed a number of creative and thought-provoking public service announcements that use humor to make the point that driving safely through work zones is the responsibility of all drivers.
More information on the National Work Zone Awareness week and the coalition of supporting organizations is available from American Traffic Safety Services Association, including details on a new 2016 initiative that encourages people and organizations to display orange to support the work zone safety theme.
The use of humor in social media spaces has for some time been an acknowledged strategy for building an audience. And, most people would agree that it is hard to build excitement or interest in dry lectures about best practices.
The Washington State Department of Transportation last month decided to leverage the holiday season to make a few points about driver behavior by crafting their messages under the guise of celebrating Festivus, the fictional holiday featured in the Seinfeld comedy series of the 1990s. Part of the “traditional” Festivus celebrations includes the “airing of grievances,” along with displaying feats of strength.
[Full disclosure: I formerly worked for WSDOT and as a former state resident generally follow their social media channels.]
So WSDOT took to Twitter Dec. 23, 2015 and announced it was celebrating Festivus 2015 by airing a few grievances. Jeremy Bertrand, WSDOT’s digital and social media guru, reported that the “grievance” airing went well and that from WSDOT’s perspective the public enjoyed the messages, and in some cases joined in by airing grievances of their own.
WSDOT assembled a large compilation of their Festivus messages and the public responses over at Storify.
By using the Festivus theme WSDOT was able to highlight risky behaviors, bad habits and other actions that typical motorists sometimes use that contribute to safety concerns and maintenance issues. This is not the first time a state DOT has talked about these issues, but using humor and connecting with a pop culture event like Festivus helped communicate the messages in a more acceptable way.
For more than half a decade, AASHTO has tracked social media usage by state departments of transportation. During that time, a crazy myriad of social tools have come along – and gone away. But according to the 2015 State DOT Social Media Survey, three social tools have established themselves as the tried-and-true, go-to resources.
(Full disclosure: I serve as AASHTO’s communications director and work closely with state DOTs on communications issues, including use of social media.)
Each June, AASHTO surveys state DOTs about their social media programs. In 2010, states generally relied on Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Approximately 10 percent of state DOTs still maintained MySpace accounts and 33 percent offered podcasts.
The survey goes a step further and asks states a simple question, “If your state could use only one social media service, which would it use?” Twitter came out slightly ahead of Facebook, but both tools had their fans.
Twitter advocates said that the short message format and the immediate information delivery worked best for providing breaking, or urgent information about system conditions. It also was described as an important channel for connecting with journalists and bloggers covering transportation issues.
Facebook fans described the rich suite of tools and the ability to integrate several social channels into a single site as among its biggest benefits. In short, Facebook has the potential for the largest audience and provides the best platform for longer-form messages related to safety and overall agency branding.
You can see from the chart below that Twitter is mostly used for the urgent, need-to-know information, while states mostly use Facebook for public involvement and general branding/safety messaging.
A full list of the annual social media reports 2010-2015 is available at the TransComm web site.