Two years ago, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) made a major leap into social media to extend the Institute’s reach in telling our story.
Communications Specialist Michelle Hoelscher was asked to lead the effort to establish a social media presence for TTI. In 2011, she created a TTI Facebook page and a Twitter account to go along with the Institute’s existing video channel on YouTube, where TTI had already been posting Institute and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) videos.
TTI has begun reacher out farther, to more people, via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to tell the Institute’s story.
“At the time, social media was considered mostly a young person’s hobby,” Hoelscher says. “But a just-released Pew Research Center survey shows that one-third of 65-year-olds who use the Internet also visit social networking sites. It’s no surprise that, among younger users, 18 to 29 years old, the number climbs to 80 percent.”
As user numbers climb, more people rely on Facebook and Twitter to keep them informed. Most companies and businesses — as well as state agencies like TxDOT, which has its own social media presence, are now onboard.
“We began to realize pretty quickly that we were connecting with people we weren’t reaching otherwise. We have friends and followers from numerous countries: individuals, other agencies, members of the media and companies that probably wouldn’t know about us without social media,” Hoelscher says.
TTI’s Facebook page has 551 “Likes” as of March 29. (Once liked, all posts by TTI will appear on the user’s newsfeed.) Hoelscher posts not only TTI-generated stories that link to the Institute’s website, but also other transportation-related news and information. The potential audience for these topics is almost limitless. It’s estimated that more than one billion users get online with Facebook each month — that’s 1 out of every 7 humans currently on the planet.
TTI’s Twitter account boasts 1,259 followers. Hoelscher has “tweeted” nearly 2,000 times since the account became active. (A tweet is a text-based message restricted to a maximum of 140 characters.) Like Facebook, Twitter has also grown in popularity since it started in 2006, now with an estimated 200 million users each month. Similar to Facebook’s “Like” feature, Twitter users can choose to “Follow” TTI tweets to learn about the latest publication, news story, or research project publicized by the Institute.
TTI’s YouTube Channel is a collection of nearly 40 videos produced by the Visual Media Group and has nearly 14,000 views. Most of the videos demonstrate processes or document research findings produced on TxDOT’s behalf.
“With social media, we can reach a worldwide audience instantaneously,” says Terri Parker, division head for marketing, communications and agency relations. “And when others pick up our Facebook posts, share our YouTube videos, or re-tweet our Twitter feed, we can multiply that reach exponentially. We have a great story to tell about TTI. With social media, we’ve managed to get others to help us tell our story.”