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41 to social media activities, including 23% that reported an from the appropriate departments result in more online investment of more than 80 hours per month. The vast majority credibility than excuses from communications or customer of small agencies (86%) reported a commitment of 40 hours service staff. per month or less. Find the Right Voice Marketing and communications staff was most likely to participate in social media programs across the board. The language of social media tends to be informal and At large urban agencies, the reports ranged from a low of conversational. Although agencies may not want to adopt 23 hours per month to a high of 200 hours per month; at the abbreviations that are characteristic of text messaging, smaller agencies the range was narrower, from an estimated they need to try to find the right voice for their social media 3 hours to 20 hours per month. Among large agencies, social communications. Agencies using social media stressed the media responsibilities were also allocated to community importance of avoiding bureaucratic jargon and using humor relations staff (a high of 170 hours per month) and customer whenever possible. service (a high of 200 hours per month). Other depart- ments, for example, legal and human resources had a small Agencies also emphasized the importance of acknowledg- role, if any. ing errors and taking responsibility for their missteps. Even if an organization cannot solve a particular problem, customers are more likely to believe that the agency cares about its Lessons Learned customers and listens to their concerns. The principles of humility, transparency, and authenticity are paramount. Surveyed agencies offered a wealth of advice and experience. Key lessons are summarized here, based on respondents' perceptions of the challenges and benefits of using social media. Listen, Listen, Listen Agencies generally reserved the right to delete offensive or Keep Social Media in Perspective inappropriate comments, but they viewed negative comments as an opportunity to learn from their customers and to correct For many agencies, social media users are perceived to be misinformation. Social media can provide transit operators only a small segment of the rider population. Although this with unfiltered customer feedback. If they are willing to market is likely to grow, agencies stressed the importance listen, agencies can learn what they are doing right and what of integrating newer social media with more traditional they are doing wrong. forms of rider communication. In addition, Bay Area Rapid Transit encouraged agencies to focus on providing basic Customers can also provide transit properties with valu- rider information tools--including online trip planning and able information about conditions in the field. During a real-time service information--before spending time on series of severe snowstorms that affected travel throughout social media. the New York metropolitan area, messages from customers helped the Metropolitan Transportation Authority identify Consider the Organizational Impacts trouble spots. Several agencies emphasized the importance of obtaining the necessary internal approvals before implementing social Respect the Strengths of Social Media media campaigns. New York's Metropolitan Transportation Social media are not simply new channels for traditional Authority made sure to obtain reviews and approvals from communications. Agencies that recognize this can take in-house counsel before going online. Dallas Area Rapid advantage of the unique strengths of each social medium Transit secured support from senior management before platform and tailor their messages accordingly. Twitter, implementing its YouTube campaign. for example, can be best for immediate communications, whereas blogs may encourage more in-depth conversations. Agencies also stressed the importance of understanding Several agencies use social media to direct customers to the true costs of social media. Although these applications are the main agency website, especially during special events generally free, or require minimal investment, the long-term or emergencies. costs of maintaining the sites, including frequent updates and active monitoring, can be substantial. Even sites specifying business hours discovered that readers expected answers to Have Fun their questions at all times. In addition to its advantages for communicating with customers When used effectively, social media can involve depart- and stakeholders, social media can be fun. Posting entertaining ments throughout the organization. Meaningful responses content can remind customers about the people behind the