A day at Mobility 21: is Twitter worth Tweeting about?

I spent Friday at the annual Mobility 21 Transportation Summit, which was held at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. Mobility 21 is a group made up of businesses and transit agencies that works toward regional transportation improvements in Southern California.

As for the summit, it mostly consists of panel discussions on a variety of topics. To boil it all down to its core, here’s the messages I took away from this year’s edition:

•Transportation funding remains in short supply. This is a constant topic of discussion at M21 summits — really the only thing that changes from year to year is the particular threat to funding.

•There’s a lot of enthusiasm for public-private partnerships, but still a lot of questions about how to use private dollars to build public projects.

•The next federal transportation spending bill is huge. The challenge, in short: how to spread the “peanut butter” — i.e. funding — around the country to get the necessary votes from Congress but how to actually use the money to get real results. In other words, spending and results are not necessarily correlated.
The most interesting session, at least to me (and for obvious reasons), was about using social media for agencies to reach stakeholders.

A couple of the speakers were especially high on using Twitter to reach a lot of people because it’s easy to build large networks of people with short, pithy messages and it’s an easy way for government to reach people.

On that point, I’m not sure how I feel. Metro has more than 3,000 followers on its main Twitter account. That’s not a tiny audience, but also not exactly a huge one when compared to the number of boardings on our system each weekday (more than a million).

I do think Twitter is a good way to reach people, but I’ll confess: I have better things to do personally than scroll through a bunch of Tweets, most of which I find completely and thoroughly uninteresting. And not everything can be adequately captured in 140 characters.

So what do you think? Should Metro be Tweeting more or less? Or concentrate on The Source or Facebook? Speaking of, this is a good chance to remind everyone to take our reader survey to offer your two cents about The Source.

Categories: Policy & Funding, Technology

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5 replies

  1. “On that point, I’m not sure how I feel. Metro has more than 3,000 followers on its main Twitter account. That’s not a tiny audience, but also not exactly a huge one when compared to the number of boardings on our system each weekday (more than a million).”

    For the record, that’s 3000 followers and I haven’t seen a single advertisement for the twitter on a train or bus. Maybe a worthwhile investment?

  2. I think it depends on how you use twitter.
    If an organization (Metrolink, for example) uses twitter as a tool to quickly let users know of changes to the schedule, great.

    It’s when a public organization uses twitter for multiple purposes. If the above mentioned metrolink used it to reply to other tweeters, the effectiveness (the branding) of the twitter account is diluted, and the people who actually follow the tweets tend to quit reading them.

    In summary, for a public agency, each twitter account should be used for one purpose only

  3. I’m a *huge* fan of Twitter but the transit agency use case is a bit different. Might be interesting to see what other transit agencies nationwide are doing.

    The Source is just fantastic. Whatever you do, keep doing the blogging, with all the detail.