State DOTs and Social Networking

This post might be very boring to the library folks, but this is what I do. I’m a transportation librarian, so I think about transportation stuff. One thing that I’m interested in is how transportation agencies use social networking to share information. This is why I started MashTrans, because it was clear that people were interested but didn’t really know where to begin. It is one of those areas where there’s no right way, but there’s plenty of ways to get it wrong.

This week AASHTO, or the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (we love our acronyms in transportation), joined the hordes on Twitter with @aashtospeaks. They’ve only tweeted twice so far, but one was a link to results of a survey about Twitter and Facebook with state DOTs. They found 32 agencies have presences on Twitter and 24 are on Facebook. That’s not too shabby for 51 agencies of varying populations and resources.

I had been working on something similar but instead of a survey I chose the brute force method: I just went to each agency’s website and then searched around, also using Google, to find if they were on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Youtube. I also looked to see which agencies had RSS feeds available for the public. It was at times frustrating, but here it is in all its glory. At first I thought, well, AASHTO beat me to the punch, but then I looked at their results and compared them to mine. It’s not the same thing. Here’s why:

  1. AASHTO used a survey to get their results, I sought them out myself. Their results depend on people responding to the survey (which is never a sure thing), while I looked for what was publicly available (and relatively easy to find).
  2. I looked at services besides Facebook and Twitter. Honestly, I love Facebook and I love Twitter, but they aren’t always the best tool. Flick and YouTube have great applications for transportation information, just look at Washington State DOT’s Flickr. Lovely stuff. When I was at the TRB meeting last month, it was clear that people had gotten the message that people are on Twitter and Facebook, but it was also clear that most people didn’t know what transportation agencies should actually do there besides have a presence. That’s not really going to cut it.
  3. I also looked for RSS feeds. I wish I could say I was surprised at how few agencies actually offer them, but I’m not. True, many people don’t understand what RSS means, but in the age of database driven CMS websites, they are pretty easy to offer and can really help push your agency’s message out to places like Twitter and Facebook with minimal effort. More people need to be doing this.

So I need to figure out why my next steps will be with this information. I’ll be looking at MPOs next and then transit agencies. Who knows what I’ll find.

One thought on “State DOTs and Social Networking

  1. Wow… great work, as always. Eagerly looking forward to you research on the MPOs next and transit agencies. It bet it will be worth compiling them into a searchable database along with what AASHTO has published, and possibly make it a comprehensive resource of Social Media usage in the transportation domain.

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