Socializing Caltrans: Leveraging the Power of Social Media
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There’s a good chance you use some form of social media in your personal life — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or one of their many cousins. And you may have been wondering when Caltrans would jump on this increasingly packed bandwagon. Wonder no longer! Headquarters launched a new social media page on the Caltrans website this past summer. Brace yourself: we are now officially part of the zeitgeist — and we have the icons on our website to prove it!
Full disclosure: Due to Caltrans' Internet use policy, you may not be able to access all of the new social media links from your work computer. But the very fact that Caltrans has embraced social media (or at least given it one of those quickie one-shouldered man-hugs) is a promising development. It allows us to use powerful online tools to keep the traveling public and our employees better informed. Plus — and this is a big plus — these powerful online tools are all free.
“Social media isn’t a substitute for the traditional channels we use to communicate with the public and media about Caltrans activities — it’s an additional tool,” said Chief of Media Relations and Public Affairs Lauren Wonder. “We will always need news releases and press conferences, but social media allows us to be more nimble in our communications, to keep the public informed in real time in ways that were unthinkable just a few years ago.”
To encourage the public to access Caltrans’ social media sites, the new launch page on the Caltrans website provides one-stop shopping for almost all social media platforms used by the districts and Headquarters. You’ll find links to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, as well as contact links and RSS feeds, which allow users to sign up to receive updates automatically.
Glancing at the list, it’s easy to see which districts are the social media all-stars. Districts 2, 4 and 10 have a presence on all of the included platforms: Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, as well as an RSS feed. District 7 isn’t too shabby either. We don’t have a Facebook page due to access limitations, nor a YouTube channel, but we do post videos on our own site, which keeps eyeballs where we want them — on our site, not an external site. We also have auxiliary websites dedicated to I-5 and US 101 projects and a blog.
The blog, which is updated daily, has become an increasingly important information source for both the public and media. Produced by the Media Relations and Public Affairs Unit, the blog strives to connect the public to District 7 in a way that’s more accessible and informal than more traditional communication channels. It also strives to be more timely, which is easier to do with a daily blog post than a monthly or quarterly newsletter. Recent posts have featured closure information, project photos, answers to frequently asked questions, safety tips, and details on upcoming events.
Twitter has also become an valuable resource for District 7, allowing us to quickly inform the public about closures, disruptive accidents, delays, community meetings, construction milestones and much more. With each message capped at 140 characters, our tweets are not only a quick, efficient way to communicate important information, but also an effective means to drive the Twitter audience to our websites and blog, creating cross-platform synergy.
We currently have almost 3,000 Twitter followers, including media outlets, other transportation agencies, chambers of commerce, elected officials, law enforcement, businesses and citizens. The platform will be particularly useful during Carmageddon II at the end of September. We’ll be able to provide real-time updates on closures, progress reports and photos.
Although it’s not technically a social media platform, the new Caltrans QuickMap is fast becoming another popular online tool. QuickMap, officially launched on July 31, provides motorists with real-time traffic and travel information. Users can access nearly 1,000 freeway cameras and more than 700 electronic message signs throughout California. They can also monitor traffic congestion, California Highway Patrol incidents, travel time information, lane closures, Amber Alerts, and traffic speeds — data that’s particularly valuable during major closures like Carmageddon II.
Caltrans’ core function is to build, maintain and operate state freeways and highways — all of which are vital to our mission: improving mobility across California. Providing information about the system also allows us to improve mobility. Through the use of online tools Caltrans can — and is — empowering people to make better transportation decisions every day.
Caltrans Social Media Launch Page: http://www.dot.ca.gov/socialmedia
District 7 Blog: http://caltransd7info.blogspot.com/
District 7 Twitter: http://twitter.com/CaltransDist7
District 7 I-5 Website: http://www.I-5info.com
District 7 US 101 Website: http://www.US101-info.com
Caltrans QuickMap: http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov