AASHTO Journal

Latest Social Media Survey Highlights State DOTs’ Priorities, Usage Patterns

Results from the association's latest annual social media survey confirmed that state departments of transportation are making it a standard business practice to use social media sites to communicate with the public, AASHTO said in a report detailing the survey findings.

However, responses to the 2017 survey also show that the ways state DOT use social media and the types of media they employ can vary significantly, AASHTO said.

capitol0816.jpgThe association began polling DOTs in 2009 on their use of online media and social tools. Each spring the survey polls state agencies with a series of questions about their adoption of social media, the impact of this "new media" communications approach and the influence it has on interactions between the department and its customers.

This year 40 state agencies and the District of Columbia DOT responded to the AASHTO survey.

Some departments said they have hired social media managers to lead specialized online outreach campaigns, while others trained existing communications officers to handle that type of public engagement.

In addition, more state DOTs than in the past reported an interest in tracking their social media outreach impact, but fewer said they archive and preserve their online messages for public records purposes.

The survey also focused on specific tools, including those that provide instant messaging options. While 98 percent of respondents said they continue to use Twitter in a variety of ways, only four said they use the mobile application SnapChat.

Few of the DOTs reported any plans to develop new social media tools, with most preferring to devote time and effort to improving how to better leverage the online tools they already use. But many expressed concerns about keeping current on social media apps, and how the ongoing demand to supply those outlets with new content more frequently affects how department staff is trained and deployed.

Much of the growing focus by state agencies on this use of new media also appears to be driven by simple demand.

"There appears to be a consensus among state departments of transportation using social media that the public expects to find transportation agencies in social spaces," the report said. "This places added pressure on communication teams to come up with content – especially photographs and videos – preferred by social media users and conducive towards helping state departments of transportation tell their own stories as effectively as possible."

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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