Aftermarket

State DOTs Use Social Networking to Get the Word Out

February 25, 2010

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More and more state transportation departments are using social networking sites to get the word out to the traveling public, according to a recent survey conducted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. From a survey of 32 state DOTs, AASHTO found that 26 states, or 81 percent, are now on Twitter, while almost half of those surveyed have a Facebook page. Meanwhile, 18 states have an active YouTube channel.


State DOTs feel that social media is a more effective way to communicate time-sensitive traffic and travel information, the survey points out.

"Using social media tools allows us to carry messages to constituents through the forums they already use rather than expecting them to seek us out," said Paula Hammond, Washington state transportation secretary. "We have improved our agency's credibility with the public, improved communication efficiency, and saved taxpayers money."

Tweet, Tweet

Of the 81 percent of states surveyed that use Twitter, 83 percent of them use it to relay traffic incidents, while 80 percent use it to relay road closings and 63 percent use it to communicate emergencies such as hurricanes and tornados. Other information released by state DOTs on Twitter include referrals to Tripcheck and new video updates, fires, accidents, construction projects and delays, press releases, state responses to the Recovery Act, air quality, transit information and 511 information.

Washington now has 8,000 followers on its main DOT Twitter account, with 3,000 followers on its Seattle area traffic account. Washington, along with Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and California are among several states using multiple Twitter accounts to give travelers the ability to personalize their information based on specific highway routes or their geographic location.

North Carolina is also a big player on Twitter, with separate accounts according to interstate and area of the state. These accounts provide alerts about traffic congestion and construction work. It has also been a tool for motorists to stay updated with the rockslide on Interstate 40, which has caused the DOT to close a portion of the interstate since October.

Facebook

Facebook has also been a platform for communication used by state DOTs, with 45 percent of those surveyed using it. According to the survey, Facebook provides a way for state DOTs to target specific audiences, especially teens and young drivers. For example, Arizona targets its messages to drivers 16 to 35.

The type of information found on state DOT Facebook pages includes news, job postings, events and meeting announcements, safety messages, contests and polls/surveys, teen driver safety information, links to public service announcements, video news updates and hours of operation.

Other Outlets

State DOTs are also involved in other types of social media, the survey found. Seventy-four percent have video on their web sites, while 64 percent, including North Carolina, have a YouTube channel. Meanwhile, 45 percent participate on LinkedIn, while the same percentage have RSS feeds on their web sites. Ten percent have a MySpace page, 33 percent offer podcasts, and 7 percent have a blog.

Despite these numbers, all of the states surveyed said they still rely on the traditional media to get their messages out, especially since not all of their audiences use the Internet. Most agreed that they first need to determine their target audience and then decide which tool is best to reach that audience.

Within traditional media, the most effective outreach was new releases at 58 percent, followed by one-on-one calls with reporters at 45 percent. Using events and news conferences (36 percent) and radio and television outreach (32 percent) were also effective.

"In a rural area of my state, we have families who do not have (cell) phones or computers and rely on the traditional media to get the information out by newspaper or through events," wrote one official from Mississippi.

For more information about the survey, click here.

Find AASHTO on Twitter at twitter.com/aashtospeaks.

Follow Heavy Duty Trucking on Twitter at twitter.com/hdtrucking and Facebook at www.facebook.com/heavydutytrucking.


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