Transit and Twitter, how Metro and other agencies are taking on social media

Metro's Twitter Followers May 2011-August 2011

Metro's added over 1,000 Twitter followers since May.

Last week the Washington City Paper, an alternative weekly newspaper for the D.C. area, took an in-depth look at the efforts of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to improve their customer communications (and image) by diving into the world of social media.

The article is well worth a read – it focuses on WMATA’s newly minted PR mouthpiece Dan Stessel who has spearheaded a Twitter initiative that has more than doubled the agency’s followers (the count stands at 14,785 at the time of writing) and introduced a human voice to the normally impersonal customer communications.

In the past we’ve taken a look at Vancouver Translink’s Twitter initiative – a project that started last November as a pilot program and introduced dedicated Twitter staff that brought Translink from 3,883 followers to 12,650 followers today.

Here at Metro, our social media initiatives have focused primarily on The Source, but our Twitter presence has been steadily growing (and, in my opinion, improving). At the start of the summer @MetroLosAngeles had about 4,300 followers, today we have 5,687. It’s an improvement, but we’re still not reaching as many people as other agencies.

Unlike those other agencies, Metro doesn’t currently have any staff dedicated solely to Twitter communications. Service alerts tweets are a labor of love from staff transportation planner Stephen Tu and the rest of the tweets and replies are handled by Metro communications staff (when they have the time) and Source contributors.

When it comes to The Source, we’ve always been big believers in Twitter – we’ve been posting our weekly roundup of tweets since we started blogging. And as the blog has matured we’ve added more Twitter integration and focused more of our efforts on extending our coverage to Twitter and providing two-way communications to our readers and followers.

Our latest idea, inspired by WMATA: we’ll be signing tweets so followers know who’s talking to them. I’ll sign my tweets FC, Steve is SH, Carter is CR, Kim is KU and Stephen (service alerts) is ST.

Categories: Best Practices, Technology