TransLink has a Facebook account which Pabillano says is still at its early development. The page has about 1,300 fans, but it’s still working through the strategy for that venue right now. For its conversations, she finds a blog is easier because you can have long-form conversations where you’re building relationships through lots of discussion — a prolonged discussion.
“I just think it’s the way people use Facebook; it’s less to do with going online to engage with a brand as it is to update your own personal stuff that contributes to a larger feed,” she says.
“The “Buzzer” blog is the offshoot of the transit newsletter that we have that appears in all of TransLink’s buses,” Pabillano says. “You’re really being able to connect to customers and really able to answer their customer service and deeper questions about our planning process and the other larger things that we’re involved in. People start to feel closer to the organization or feel that they understand what we’re doing more.”
One question and concern that comes up frequently with many of the social channels, including Facebook, is how to build your fans, your friends, your followers, etc. This past Christmas, The T in Fort Worth had a creative twist added to its annual tradition which tied in the real world and online realm.
An annual event for The T is the Holiday Lights Tour. A lot of buses go out to a particular area and look at the Christmas lights. As Maxwell says, it’s a way to engage non-traditional customers and a lot of people that have never ridden The T before.
“For years and years and years we’ve always had where you could have your picture taken with Santa,” says Maxwell. “We used a Polaroid that just printed out a little picture for them. That’s the way they used to do it.
“Well they don’t have those anymore; Polaroid doesn’t make that camera or film at all anymore. So we thought how could we do this?”
Taking pictures and printing them out is a costly hassle, so the solution was to post the pictures to The T’s Facebook page. “We loaded all several hundred photos there on our Facebook site and we handed out little cards that said in a few days, this will be up on our Facebook site, so go check it out.”
Maxwell explains in the information it handed out there was a disclaimer that these photos would be going online. Kids had the option of sitting on Santa’s lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas without getting their picture taken.
Another way that it has built up followers to its page is through the targeted ads on Facebook. Generally they’re about special services, such as “Ride the TRE to see the Mavericks,” and it directs Facebook users to The T’s page for additional information.
“The thing I like about it,” Maxwell says, “we can get actual metrics. We know exactly how many people are clicking through.
“It seems to be good because it’s really fairly cheap. It seems to be cost-effective.”
Location-Based Offers Different Opportunities
Location-based social media platforms have been gaining popularity in some areas and again, when some agencies saw that riders kept “checking in” at their stations, stops and on their vehicles, they went to where their riders are. Two properties that offer “badges” in Foursquare are TransLink and BART.
Moore says they were seeing on Twitter, that a lot of BART customers were checking in at the stations using Foursquare. He says the percentage of Foursquare users compared to the percentage of riders is relatively small, so they’re viewing the interaction in this space as kind of an experiment. They’re also thinking of ways to growing that and adding value to the customers in that space.
“The thing that really drew us to it, is that it’s a great way, No. 1 for our customers to communicate with each other while they’re en route using our services,” says Moore. “It’s also a great way for us to communicate with customers while they’re using our service and third, it’s a really good way for us to expose station area locations for the businesses and events and the services that are around our stations in the communities that we serve because it’s also in our interest to help create more vibrant communities.”
It’s also been working on Junaio, an application riders can use to see things in real time on their smart phone overlaid on a map, such as real-time train arrivals.