Blevins had an example to the kind of feedback they get from time to time that reinforces the appreciation from their customers. The message thanked TriMet for a service alert email sent out because the rider was asthmatic and anything to do with chemical smells or smoke issues were of concern. The rider goes on to say, “Thank you for being transparent about matters like this. I am impressed by your actions and respect TriMet when they communicate this way. Keep up the great work!”
Pabillano says that the comments she gets about how much the Buzzer blog has meant to people and how excited they are to hear from TransLilnk has been amazing. “To get these commendations and people saying that the work that I do with the blog has made things better, has shown that our agency can demonstrate change, that it has given them behind-the-scenes looks and an understanding of what we do that they haven’t gotten before … has been really amazing.”
One measurement that many mention is how the number of hits to their website coming from Facebook, Twitter or other social media channels where they’re active, has grown tremendously.
Managing New Media
One of the things that DART’s Lyons stresses is that it’s not free. “People will say, ‘This is free.’ Yeah, the account is free, but you’re going to spend time doing that and managing the time’s a big thing.”
Blevins says, “We don’t have the resources to provide complete, full-time service detour/delay information or to be fully engaged in all conversations. We pick and choose based on customer needs and our ability to respond with useful information.”
“Social media isn’t a one-way conversation, it isn’t a conversation with thousands of people,” says Sound Transit’s Vogt. “It’s a conversation with one person. So be willing to invest time to have a conversation with just one person, recognizing that conversation can be seen by thousands of people.”
BART’s Jordan agrees that time management can be a challenge. “With just a two-person staff, obviously you have to set priorities and social is going to fall by the wayside if you’re dealing with a major issue that requires immediate attention on the website.”
Lyons explains that earlier in the morning, there were several tweets about service problems that customers had done that needed addressing. And of the three-person work group, he was the only one on.
“It was one of those things where, OK, I need to stop what I was doing and address those and so that just inserted about a half hour in my day.”
Lyons also says that at DART, they take the “it takes a village” approach. “While there are two or three of us primarily responsible for the care and feeding of the new media platforms, we can’t do that without a lot of serious help and support from a lot of other groups.
“When we call our operations people, they know we’re calling because we’re always kind of on deadline, and so we typically get very good response and that’s been very helpful.”
The Dark Cloud of Negative Conversations
When it comes to dealing with negative comments or the fear of negative comments, it seems that it’s not nearly as daunting as people imagine. And as Pabillano points out, “Those conversations already exist whether you’re participating in them or not. Being a part of social media helps you be a part of that conversation and maybe steer the direction that might be positive for your organization.
“But at this point now, all you have is the negative things that people are saying that you don’t get to participate in, so for some people it might be a missed opportunity.”
“I think the challenge with negative comments is more the internal fear of them,” Vogt says with a laugh. “I think after all this much worry about negative comments it’s been a real pleasant surprise at how few there are.”
Pabillano shares a similar sentiment. “There was no overwhelming barrage of really angry people who have showed up and made life misery. It really hasn’t happened that way.”
“The most important thing to remember is first of all, don’t panic. It’s not as scary as it seems,” says Vogt. “And I think they’ll find they’ll get much more positive outlook then they will a negative outlook. “
“I think agencies need to develop a bit of a thicker skin on these things,” says BART’s Moore. “Just because they’re not being said in a public place, doesn’t mean they’re not being said and it doesn’t mean they’re not things that the agency shouldn’t address.