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8 Officials from the 43 organizations responding to the UTM survey cited multiple reasons for using social media. Survey responses included: (1) engaging customers at a low cost to the agency; (2) keeping stakeholders up to date about service issues, planning, and other time-sensitive informa- tion; (3) allowing customers to bypass agency bureaucracy; (4) making the agency appear more "hip" when communicat- ing with a large student population; and (5) reaching people where they are already communicating rather than requiring them to visit the agency website for information. Among transit agencies, reasons for using social media typically fall into five broad categories, which are summarized here. Figure 3 illustrates some examples. Timely Updates Social media provide agencies with an unparalleled oppor- tunity to share information with their customers, often in real-time. Twitter is exceptionally well suited to providing service alerts, and many transit operators use it for this Source: Funk/Levis & Associates. purpose. Blogs and Facebook also allow organizations to FIGURE 2 Comparison of traditional media and social media. update readers about a board meeting, a fare increase, or a new route. For example, the Toronto Transit Commission uses Twitter to relay service updates, whereas MTA uses Twitter to remind the public about scheduled board meetings and to information, project updates, agency promotions, and agency direct them to a live webcast. stories and testimonials. Organizations used blogs to promote more in-depth discussion, while LinkedIn was used for net- Public Information working and recruiting purposes. Many transit organizations use social media to provide general Why Use Social Media? information about services, fares, and long-range planning projects. For example, the Regional Transportation Commis- HCI reports that government agencies at the state, federal, and sion of Southern Nevada posted a YouTube video to showcase local levels use social networking for a wide range of pur- the features of its new fleet of double-decker buses, and the poses, including employee learning and development (44%), Utah Transit Authority is one of several agencies to use social communications and public relations (44%), recruiting (38%), media to highlight local destinations and events that can be and support functions such as human relations, training, and reached by transit. At the federal level, U.S. Transportation finance (35%). The National Association of State Chief Infor- Secretary Ray LaHood uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and mation Officers (NASCIO) surveyed U.S. states and territo- his Fast Lane blog to provide information about department ries about their use of social media (4). Among 43 agencies initiatives; periodically he answers constituent questions about responding to the survey, the primary reasons for using social federal transportation policy through YouTube. LA Metro sets media cited include citizen engagement (98%) and public up Facebook pages for specific long-range projects and sends information and outreach (93%). More than half of the agen- out live tweets during public meetings. cies responding also selected open government (67%) and business engagement (54%) as important goals. NASCIO's Citizen Engagement survey indicated that many government organizations rou- tinely use social media for public safety and emergency noti- Transportation organizations have taken advantage of the fications, although the survey did not specifically cover this interactive aspects of social media to connect with their cus- application. A survey conducted for FHWA had similar find- tomers in an informal way. These connections can take many ings (5). State departments of transportation reported using forms, but the goals are the same: to reach out to riders and Web 2.0 technologies to provide information and to build stakeholders and to build support. For example, TransLink ini- communities around transportation issues. A few agencies tially used Facebook to engage its riders in a contest to name also used collaborative Web 2.0 apps such as mashups, wikis, the agency's new fare card, and Metro Transit St. Louis posts Sharepoint sites, Google groups, and Google documents for photographs of community events, such as a bus-painting day planning and administration. at a local elementary school, on its Flickr page.
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9 FIGURE 3 Examples of transit-related social media sites. Employee Recognition Entertainment Some organizations use social networking for recognizing Lastly, social media can be fun. Agencies often use social employees and recruiting new hires. In Virginia, Hampton media to put a human face on what can sometimes seem like Roads Transit set up a LinkedIn site that allows current an impenetrable bureaucracy, and they entertain their riders employees to connect with one another and enables potential through songs, videos, and contests. New York's Long Island employees to learn more about the organization, whereas Rail Road (LIRR), among other agencies, uses YouTube to Tulsa Transit has used Twitter to announce job openings. share safety information. LIRR's The Gap Rap is a music video In Texas, the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Author- starring in-house talent and local fifth-graders that reminds rid- ity used Facebook to recognize a long-time employee on his ers to "Watch the gap" when boarding or alighting trains; in a retirement, and DART has created a series of videos for its similar vein, the Transit Authority of River City posted a rap YouTube channel that feature interviews with agency staff. video to show Louisville bus riders how to use a bicycle rack.