Twitter was also a key tool to distributing messages during the Olympics. “We had a big team devoted to updating people because it was going to be critically important to make sure people were aware of the traffic situations.
“That really delivered our customer service really highly rated and this November we got our call center customer information department to do a pilot project with the Twitter account so we had someone who would sit and answer questions and put out information from 6:30 in the morning until 11:30 at night, which is the hours of our call center, more or less.”
For IndyGo, what has worked best is posting a dozen or so tweets a day with route updates because it doesn’t have any other real-time access for the public at this time. Cross says, “So what we do is kind of the old-fashioned way.
“When we get information or when we’re monitoring buses and we see buses that are more than 10 or 15 minutes late, we’re tweeting about it.” She adds, “We recently just started using the hash marks with the route number first so that way people who are only interested in route 19 can put ‘#19’ and they’ll get all the most recent tweets about route 19.”
Not all Twitter use has been about service updates and TriMet shares a success with a contest it did last year. “We created a Haiku contest for our Twitter followers, based on our key sustainability focus,” Blevins says. “Followers created Haikus based on a set of “dirty words” we’re working to eliminate, namely greenhouse gas, pollution, waste, inefficiency and congestion.”
Not only did it receive a great deal of attention, he says it was creative and fun for the agency and riders.
Further Building Through Facebook
With Facebook and Twitter, there is the ability to push the same information from one, automatically to the other. Some agencies find they utilize a lot of the same information for both, some have different audiences and tailored messages to each and others find that Facebook just hasn’t been as important a tool for their property.
Vogt says when Sound Transit started using Twitter and Facebook, it noticed that the sites had different kinds of audiences so to a certain extent it tailors the messages to each audience.
“Twitter was much more people who were on the go or maybe on our services. They tended to be mostly Link light rail riders,” says Vogt. “Facebook seemed to be people that were less likely to be using a mobile device or on our services when they were talking. They tended to be using it at a workstation or at their desktop, so for them we talk more about Sound Transit in general.”
IndyGo staff has also noticed very different audiences for their Facebook and Twitter accounts, so Cross says they can have more fun information for folks on Facebook, the “insider news” of IndyGo.
“Through the ARRA stimulus funds we were able to purchase 22 new buses that we’re just now rolling in,” says Cross. “For the first day when one of the buses was rolling in from California, we took pictures and posted them on Facebok.
“We let everybody know, ‘Hey, the new buses are here!’”
“I’ve discovered that photos are huge,” says IndyGo Manager of Marketing and Communications Sarah Knight. “They generate the most comments and very recently, someone built a snowman by one of our bus stops and I posted it and it got so many comments. Things with photos are key.”
A promotion a few months back with Dunkin Donuts was a fun event that generated a fun conversation on its Facebook page. It posted video from the event with the Dunkin Donuts’ mascot. “It’s almost a complete circle promotion,” says Cross. “Giving stuff away, meeting people face to face, then we’re posting information almost immediately; we’re just trying to come at you from all different angles.”
Green Bay Metro’s Ryan Van Handel, in public relations, says they’re using Facebook to make the riders more aware of what is happening with the agency. “It’s a way for us to let riders know detours or hours are changing; it’s a new resource for the bus system.”