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34 As a public authority, MTA welcomes feedback while Lessons Learned acknowledging that it is difficult to dissuade people from posting negative comments. The agency accepts the good MTA and NYCT offered the following lessons learned: with the bad, but reserves the right to delete inappropriate content. NYCT's Facebook page posts the following com- · Cover your bases--MTA took pains to get all necessary ment policy: reviews and approvals from the agency's chain of com- mand, including in-house counsel, before going online. Please respect your fellow readers and exercise appropriate · Take things one step at a time--MTA says that the restraint in drafting and submitting a post. In that regard, MTA agency crawled for a good period of time, then walked, New York City Transit reserves the right to delete any post that and now is running. contains language or imagery which: is off-topic, is defamatory, compromises public safety or operations, disparages a group or · Don't overlook the value of incoming messages-- individual on the basis of ethnicity, race, gender, religion, age, During a series of snowstorms, messages from customers disability or sexual orientation, is commercial, contravenes law, helped MTA identify trouble spots in the field. contains spam, invades personal privacy, has sexual content, is · Set clear boundaries and guidelines--The MTA is a obscene, includes any link to another site, or infringes on a copy- right or other proprietary right. victim of its success. The more the agency uses its social media channels, the more the public expects. MTA has Inappropriate comments notwithstanding, the MTA strives posted disclaimers saying that its social media sites are to maintain an open online dialogue and believes that its not monitored outside of business hours, but customers riders would not accept anything less. The agency responds want responses around the clock. to comments on a case-by-case basis and encourages read- · Have some fun--For a while, MTA posted a series of ers with specific questions to contact customer service themed Twitter tweets keyed to days of the week, such directly. as "What's Up Wednesdays." These were discontinued because of staffing limitations; however, MTA would like MTA has learned that social media can be especially effec- to reinstate the series should resources become available. tive during emergencies. In the winter of 20102011, MTA had to deal with the impacts of several major snowstorms Social Media Links and tried to stay in touch with customers before and dur- ing the weather emergencies. Before the storms, MTA used Website: www.mta.info social media channels to show customers how the authority Facebook: www.facebook.com/MTA.info was preparing its equipment to operate during the inclement Twitter: www.twitter.com/mtainsider weather. During the storms, MTA tried to communicate as YouTube: www.youtube.com/mtainfo openly and honestly as possible despite difficult conditions. Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/mtaphotos. Social media updates encouraged passengers to travel safely and to check the MTA website for updated service informa- tion. Staff posted messages every hour or two, with a goal of keeping customers informed, and took advantage of incom- Mountain Line ing messages to identify trouble spots. MTA also used its social media channels to post photographs and video clips The Monongalia County Urban Mass Transit Authority, showing crews working during the storm to demonstrate the known as Mountain Line, provides bus and demand-response "herculean task our operations folks faced to keep service service in Morgantown, West Virginia. Mountain Line's ser- running." vice area comprises 201 square miles with a population of approximately 73,000 and includes the campus of West On an everyday basis, social media benefit the MTA by Virginia University (WVU), with a student enrollment of allowing the agency to distribute its message unfiltered by about 28,000. Ridership was 1.1 million trips in 2009. reporters or traditional media outlets and provides other chan- nels for individuals to get information. This, in turn, has helped Social Media Overview personalize an agency that many perceive as a "big faceless bureaucracy." Mountain Line staff report using the following social media applications: Facebook, Twitter (see Figure 13), and LinkedIn. One challenge for the MTA is managing customer expecta- The agency uses Facebook for communicating both real- tions. The more the agency uses its social media channels, the time and static information, agency news and press releases, more the public expects. The agency posts a disclaimer on its meeting notices, contests and promotions, and job listings. social profile pages saying that the sites are only monitored Twitter is used for time-sensitive information such as ser- during business hours, but perhaps because MTA's service vice updates, weather and traffic alerts that affect bus ser- runs around the clock, customers still expect responses to vice, agency news, and contests and promotions. LinkedIn their questions and comments on a 24/7 basis. is reserved for general agency information. Mountain Line
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35 FIGURE 13 Mountain Line uses Twitter to provide service updates and general information. also monitors its presence on Foursquare by verifying its · Find the best way to communicate with riders using the sites and posting tips, but the agency has not formally taken tools they already use. over the sites or made offers through the application. · Make it easy for the customers to get the information they need. Agency Considerations Mountain Line believes that university students along with choice, or discretionary, riders constitute the primary Mountain Line updates service information and alerts several times a day through Twitter. Other items are updated less fre- audience for its social media communications, especially quently, typically a few times a week for agency news and press Twitter updates. Although these individuals may have bet- releases and less often for other items. Mountain Line's Twitter ter access to technology than some rider groups, the agency account is configured to feed posts automatically to the agen- believes that its social media strategy does not exclude cy's Facebook page. Senior management, marketing staff, and other riders. Most customers can receive text messages on customer service share responsibility for generating the content their cell phones, enabling them to subscribe to Twitter sta- for social media posts. The general manager usually provides tus updates as text messages. In addition, customers can the early morning Twitter updates and turns the responsibility access real-time service updates by means of telephone, over to the marketing officer during working hours. on display boards at several locations, and on the agency's website. Mountain Line does not consider social media an Mountain Line's manager takes a hands-on approach to effective way to reach stakeholders such as community- social media for two reasons. First, updating the Twitter based organizations; overall, these groups have not adopted account is not time-consuming. Second, as a small agency, social media. Mountain Line does not have many employees who are both qualified and available to post social media updates. Out- Mountain Line does not have a social media policy. Only side of business hours when live Twitter posts are not avail- two people generate the online content for this small agency, able, customers can access the agency's automated service and they can easily discuss issues or concerns on an infor- updates on the main website. Mountain Line estimates that mal basis. If the agency developed a policy, it would most staff spends about 36 hours a month on social media updates. likely focus on messaging, image, and information control. Although such a policy could be beneficial, the general man- Mountain Line describes its strategy for using social media ager questioned whether a social media policy alone could as follows: take the place of hands-on training and experience.