Over the past two years, the Iowa DOT’s use of social media has steadily developed into one of the Iowa DOT's most popular communication tools. The agency currently has more than 1,600 Facebook users who “like” our primary page and 18,000 “followers” on the Iowa DOT’s Twitter account.
“For the Iowa DOT, using social media is a great way to have a conversation with customers,” said Andrea Henry, director of the Office of Strategic Communications, the office in charge of the DOT’s social media platforms. “Using social media also provides a way to interact with customers and answer their questions or concerns quickly. The public has come to expect quick responses to their questions. For some information, it works better to put our message out directly in our own words on Twitter or Facebook rather than send a news release to the media and wait for them to develop their own story from the information.”
Recently, social media access has been opened up for all DOT employees on state-owned equipment. Barb Espeland, director of the Information Technology Division, said, “With so much of the agency’s communications coming via social media channels, there is a business need for employees to be able to access these websites.”
The key to opening up social media access for all employees is the business need. The updated Internet usage policy, 030.09, clearly says the Internet is provided for business use for employees to accomplish their assigned job duties and responsibilities. Supervisors do have the discretion to restrict Internet access if there is not a business need.
“Social media is immediate access to information,” said Henry. “This is especially important during emergency situations. Allowing our employees to have the same access as the public to the information keeps everybody on the same page.”
Networking and sharing information are two key uses of social media. Following Twitter or Facebook pages of other agencies or groups related to transportation allows the opportunity to share best practices and develop relationships with those with an interest in transportation.
For those who have not dived deeply into the pool of social media channels, here is a list of what the Iowa DOT currently uses and the purpose of each.
The Iowa DOT has used Facebook since April 2012. This social media channel allows us to share text, photos, infographics, and videos of interest to our customers. Job postings and traffic are popular posts to the main Facebook page. Targeted road condition information resides on the Iowa 511 system’s statewide feed and on separate pages for each region.
Sinclair Stolle from the Office of Traffic Operations, said, “We have a system in place now that posts alerts and incidents from the 511 system directly to Facebook and Twitter, allowing us to reach our followers with the information they need to know to make informed decisions about their travels. They don’t have to go look for the information, it is fed directly to their computers or mobile devices.”
The department has also developed project-related Facebook pages as a way to get targeted information to customers. Offices such as aviation and transit are using Facebook pages to interact with modal enthusiasts.
Twitter is the fastest growing social media channel used by the Iowa DOT. The number of followers on the Iowa DOT’s primary page are increasing by approximately 50 people per day.
The platform limits tweets to 140 characters, allowing staff in the Office of Strategic Communications to post short bursts of information several times per day. Much of the information posted to Twitter coordinates with information posted to Facebook, including photos, and infographics.
The Iowa DOT has set up separate 511 Twitter feeds for each region of Iowa, six metro areas, and a statewide feed. And, like Facebook, these Twitter feeds are automatically populated by the 511 system and manual posts can also be made.
Videos created by the Iowa DOT are housed on our YouTube channel. The Iowa DOT’s YouTube videos are linked both to social media posts and to the agency’s website. Utilizing YouTube allows the Iowa DOT to cost-effectively caption videos, making them accessible for people with disabilities.
This platform allows the agency to create pin boards to tell transportation stories in a more visual way. Topics include safety, history, transportation-inspired crafts, wacky facts, and images.
This platform is used to give the public and news media easy access to photos from major events. Several of the galleries from the Iowa DOT’s Flickr site are linked directly from pages on the Iowa DOT’s website.
You can follow the Iowa DOT on any of these social media platforms by searching for Iowa Department of Transportation or by clicking their icon at the bottom of the Iowa DOT’s home page. Android and iPhone users can download the “myIowaDOT” app from their app store. myIowaDOT includes quick links to the department’s main Facebook and Twitter pages.
Any office or group at the Iowa DOT interested in developing a social media presence, should contact the Office of Strategic Communications for more information.