Transit agencies increasingly acknowledge social media’s value in providing customers a voice, boosting ridership and presenting new solutions to the public. To help codify best practices for transit agencies using social media, Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) researchers authored Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 156 — Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation: A Synthesis of Transit Practice for the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB’s) TCRP. Authors include Subasish Das, TTI associate research scientist; Nusrat Fahmida Trisha, TTI graduate student worker; Ipek N. Sener, TTI research scientist; and Michael Walk, TTI research scientist.
Responding to the popular (and relevant) nature of this topic, TCRP Synthesis 156 expands upon the 2012 book TCRP Synthesis 99: Uses of Social Media in Public Transportation, noted by the TCRP Synthesis library as one of the most downloaded files in the library. The newest guidance analyzes strategies as they apply to various audiences including current and future riders, media, elected officials, community members, minority populations and voters.
“This report provides the latest updates on social media usage by transit agencies through survey results and several case studies,” says Das, principal investigator of TCRP Synthesis 156. “We had 46 transit agencies from the United States and Canada participate in the survey, which gave us a good sample. We also had amazing panel members who helped develop the report.”
A principal benefit of the synthesis is to share lessons learned with other transit agencies seeking to do more on social media. Best practices contained in the report include:
- assigning a social media manager or designating a spokesperson,
- replying to comments to resolve any issues and build trust with riders, and
- leveraging social media tools such as real-time service alerts or livestream video.
Because of social media’s adaptability, transit agencies can improve operations, planning and customer relations simply by taking an interest in this growing area.
“This report will be useful to transit professionals on marketing, social media and communication teams,” notes Mariela Garcia-Colberg, TRB staff member on this project and CRP senior program manager. “TRCP Synthesis 156 documents current trends in transit agencies’ social media usage and updates TCRP Synthesis 99 with new social media platforms and communication strategies — excellent work by the TTI team.”