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39 chapter six Conclusions Social media comprise a group of web-based applications Research about social media by race and ethnicity is still that encourage users to interact with one another. Facebook, limited; however, some recent surveys suggest that minority Twitter, and YouTube are among the best known social Americans are active users, at least as far as mobile access media channels; others include Flickr, LinkedIn, Foursquare, is concerned. AfricanAmericans and Hispanics are more and MySpace. This synthesis explored how transit properties likely than whites to own a cell phone and about one-third use social media. A review of the relevant literature in the of them use those phones to access social networking sites field was combined with findings from a survey of selected compared with 19% of whites. Research about other minority transit agencies in the United States and Canada to report groups was not available. on the current state of the practice. Based on survey results, several case examples were developed to describe innovative The science of measuring social media use is still evolving. and successful practices in more detail. Many social media platforms provide some level of built-in statistics. In addition to these prepackaged statistics, numer- ous free and fee-based third-party applications offer additional Overview of Social Media insight into the effectiveness of social media activities. Interactivity is what distinguishes social networking sites from traditional (or "static") websites. Social media platforms How Transit Agencies Use Social Media encourage users to share their experiences, opinions, knowl- edge, and sometimes their locations with one another. These The surveyed transit agencies considered the following goals connections can contribute to a sense of engagement or loyalty for social media to be "very important:" among users. Communicating with current riders (97% of responding Agencies and officials at all levels of government use agencies) social media and, according to one study, 66% of government Improving customer satisfaction (85%) agencies used some form of social networking in 2009. Most Improving agency image (76%). government agencies report they use social media to stay engaged with citizens, for public information and outreach, Agencies used different social media strategies to accom- and for employee learning and development. Transportation plish these goals, but most used Twitter (91% of responding officials often take advantage of the real-time nature of Twitter agencies), Facebook (89%), and YouTube (80%). Twitter and Facebook to post service updates and announcements. was frequently used for providing time-sensitive information such as service alerts, whereas agencies selected both Twitter The characteristics of social media users are not yet well and Facebook for disseminating agency news, meeting and documented and questions remain about whether social media event notices, contests and promotions, and general service platforms can bridge the digital divide, or the gap between information. people who have access to IT and those who do not. Although not conclusive, research suggests that social media attract users Responding agencies considered social media "very from multiple demographic categories. Based on statistics effective" in accomplishing the following: compiled for 19 social networking sites, the average user is 37 years old; 53% are female. Although the vast majority of Communicating with current riders (58% of responding adults aged 1829 were social networkers (86% in 2010), so agencies) were nearly half of those aged 5064 (47%) and a quarter of Distributing real-time information (43%) those 65 and over (26%). Older users are adopting social media Distributing general service information (42%). at a faster rate than younger adults; for example, the number of Internet users aged 5064 who used a social networking site As these responses indicate, communicating with current grew 88% between 2009 and 2010, whereas the growth rate riders was the most important goal for agencies and also the was 13% for those aged 1829. The survey shows that indi- area where they considered social media to be most effective. viduals with more education and higher household incomes are For other highly rated goals, including improving customer more likely to use online government services than others. satisfaction and agency image, survey responses showed a gap