Social media is the hot, new thing in marketing. There’s pressure to slap your name on a Twitter account or Facebook account – that they’ll be the answer to all your PR, communications and marketing needs.
Basically anywhere you have an official presence where people can leave questions or comments and expect answers.
Discuss level of service during Snowmageddon.
Explained who maintains the account, our shift to Twitter hours, why we can’t track buses
Explain budget issues that have transpired between then and now.
Can talk budget, funding, capital projects, bigger picture issues, debunk myths.
We sign off every night even though people are probably sick of seeing it! Can be a powerful feedback tool – use example of real time.
Social Media: Pros & Cons forPublic AgenciesPresented by Heather PharoPublic Relations & CommunicationsCoordinator
Why Pros & Cons?It’s easy to find people who will talk about the pros ofsocial media……usually they work for marketing and PR agencies thatwant your money!We want to talk honestly about our experiences.
Why Pros & Cons?• Social media is still in its infancy – we’re all still figuring it out• One-size-fits-all approach to social media doesn’t work;what’s good for a consumer brand may not work fortransit, what works for a large agency might not work for asmall agency• Social media blurs lines between Public Relations/Marketingand Customer Service
Why Pros & Cons?We jumped into the social media game in June 2009when we joined Twitter.We didn’t have a plan – we joined because it was clearwe could reach people in a new way.It’s made some things easier…others more challenging.
Why Pros & Cons?This presentation will focus on Twitter, but theselessons apply to any kind of social media…
Our Social Media Use• Twitter: @PGHtransit• YouTube: PGHtransit• Flickr: PGHtransitphotos• Facebook.com/connectcardpgh• Transitpgh.blogspot.com
Our Social Media UsePublic Relations department created Twitter account in June2009. Only a few months later…• Pittsburgh hosts G-20 Summit (Sept. 2009)• Snowmageddon hits! (Feb. 2010)…unprecedented, rapidly shifting events that demanded a novelcommunications strategy.
Snowmageddon & Its Aftermath• @emac1214 68D back on regular routing.• Wabash HOV remains closed. 52 T line still out of service. All other Tservice has resumed serving Wood St and Steel Plaza stations.• We have updated our service list w/ changes to51A, 51C, 53F, 54C, 68D, 84A: http://bit.ly/awZuLh• @yayalaura As far as I know this is the case. We do have some updatescoming shortly - not sure that any T changes will be among them.• @emac1214 Heres the 68D details: no Brinton Manors or Towers; usingYost to Ardmore, then to regular route at Grandview and Bessemer.• @PoetyK Yes, were planning to run 78E on normal route. Its possible itmay change (like if theres more snow) but for now thats the plan.• Heading out using Port Authority? Heres everything you need toknow, including which routes are in service: http://bit.ly/awZuLh
Snowmageddon & Its AftermathWe gained a lot of goodwill from our Twitter use duringSnowmageddon.• “Most Skillful Use of Social Media by a Public Agency” –Pittsburgh City Paper’s Best of 2010• Additional mentions in the City Paper, Post-Gazette and localblogs
Snowmageddon & Its AftermathTweeting nearly 24/7 is not sustainable!After Snowmageddon, we needed to manage expectations:• Set Twitter “business hours” (inspired by TriMet and others)• “Let’s Talk Twitter” blog post – explaining thewho, what, where, when, why and how of @PGHtransit
Know Your Limitations2009• 3-person PR staff• 1 primary Twitter staffer• No real-time information• Customer Service phonehours: 6am-7pm M-F, 8am-4:30pm weekends/holidays• No mobile website2013• 2-person PR staff• 1 primary Twitter staffer• No real-time information• Customer Service phonehours: 6am-7pm M-F, 8am-4:30pm weekends/holidays• Mobile website
Know Your Limitations“Victims of our own success”: Even with layoffs and hiringfreezes, your social media following will continue to grow!Focus on what you can realistically handle and what’s mostuseful to your audience. For us, that’s:• Twitter• Facebook pages focused on specific projects• Comments disabled on YouTube, Flickr• Tried comments on TransitBlog – ultimately decided to scrap
Staffing, Staffing, Staffing!Transit Cooperative Research Program Synthesis 99 – Use ofSocial Media in Public Transportation (2012):86% of responding agencies* reported that marketing andcommunications staff generated content for social media.*34 transit agencies in US and Canada, including Port Authorityof Allegheny County
Staffing, Staffing, Staffing!Are interns the answer?…it’s tempting to throw social media to the interns (they’reyoung, probably tech-savvy)...…but think about the learning curve.In our experience, interns are best suited to marketingcampaigns.
Staffing, Staffing, Staffing!Outside marketing firms are not the solution:• Cost may be scrutinized• Starting from scratch with building a following• Familiarity with agency workings• Authenticity!
Staffing, Staffing, Staffing!Why not Customer Service?• Twitter interactions overlap with CS, but a significantamount go beyond basic service issues• They’ve also had to do more with less – recently tookon duties related to new smart card system
Staffing, Staffing, Staffing!Pros• Breadth and depth ofknowledge on agency issues• Proactive, advance-noticeinformation• Enhanced relationships withlocal media• Easy tie-ins with marketingCons• Less traffic information thanCustomer Service• No rush-hour staffing• Need to balance with otherwork dutiesThere are pros and cons to the PR approach:
The TakeawayThere’s more we’d like to be able to do on Twitter, but we believe ourservice does have value as-is:• 8,000+ followers, typically adding 150-200 each month– Customer Service receives 2,500-3,500 phone calls on average day• Clearinghouse for all kinds of inquiries – refer and direct people toresources and information sources• Reach people where they already are• Planned technological enhancements should reduce demand forservice info
The Takeaway• Manage expectations and drawclear, consistent boundaries• Pull back the curtain – be honest about whostaffs your accounts and their limitations• Use social media activity to demonstrate needfor enhancements in other areas