Social media at work? You bet!
Where do you get your work-related information? For many of us, the answer is our supervisor, co-workers, or other employees. These are great resources, but you also have a number of options at your fingertips to get useful, work-related information on digital platforms.
Over the last two decades, digital sources have evolved into the main way Americans get their news. In their “News Platform Fact Sheet,” Pew Research reports that A large majority of U.S. adults (82%) say they often or sometimes get news from a smartphone, computer, or tablet, including 49% who say they do so often.
At the Iowa DOT, we’ve been using social media platforms to share information for many years. Some of you may still be hesitant to use these resources on work time, but it’s time to put those hesitations aside and jump into the digital world at your fingertips.
Engage (formerly Yammer), our internal social media platform
This internal social media platform has really changed over the past couple of years. If you have an Iowa DOT email account, you can access Engage through our online Microsoft portal. Log in using your Iowa DOT email and current network password.
To find what you might be interested in, more than 100 “communities” have been set up focusing on everything from winter operations communities for each of the six districts to report activity during winter storms to “A Laugh a Day” if you need a quick pick-me-up. There’s something for everyone. Communities range in size from a few employees to several hundred, depending on the purpose of the group.
More and more employees have begun to see the value in using Engage to share ideas and thank co-workers for a job well done. The new “Applause” community is getting a lot of buzz. If you post a message recognizing the work of your co-workers to the Engage Applause group, it also automatically posts to DOTNET’s Movers and Shakers page, increasing the number of people who will see your post.
Iowa DOT’s Engage is a closed network, which means people outside the agency can’t see what is posted on our site. Once you are inside the Iowa DOT’s Engage network, individual groups can be set up as “public” or “private.” A public group simply means any Iowa DOT employee can join. Setting up a private group means the group’s administrator must approve a request to join the group. Either way, only people with an Iowa DOT email address are allowed on this network.
Andrea Henry, director of Strategic Communications, said, “Engage is really growing in popularity and usage. There are new posts every day from a variety of people across a number of groups”. Engage is easy to use. Anyone with something to say can simply click on the “Update” button at the top of the screen, type their message, and hit “Post.” Posting in groups allows like-minded people to have discussions around topics that interest them. You can choose to join as many or as few groups as you like. If you have something you would like all Iowa DOT Engage users to see, simply post it in the “All Company” feed." Henry added, “From collaboration to team building to knowledge share, you can get out of Engage what is most beneficial to you. You even have the flexibility to control how often and what information you see by customizing your notifications and preferences in your profile.”
She continued, “Our office has found Engage especially useful during emergencies like snowstorms. We can collaborate directly with the field without having to wade through a sea of emails. Unlike email, where it is easy to inadvertently leave someone out of the conversation, Engage assures that everyone in the group sees the messages. Other offices use it daily to coordinate projects or just share what’s going on in their area.”
If you’re still not using Engage or have an account but you’re not sure how to use the platform, here’s a video that might help you understand more about it. Note – this training still calls the platform Yammer, but it’s the same thing. https://app.quickhelp.com/iowadot/skills/70171/
External social media has value in the workplace, too
Networking and sharing information are two key uses of social media. In addition to posting our own content, the DOT’s social media team follows Facebook and X pages of other agencies or groups related to transportation to gather information, share best practices, and develop relationships with those with an interest in transportation.
To be in the know, you can not only follow the Iowa DOT accounts listed below but following other accounts related to transportation can help you gain a broader understanding and connection to the subjects we deal with across the DOT.
It’s been more than 10 years since we published our first post on Facebook. Like all other platforms, a lot has changed. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2023, more than 27 million people viewed information on our Facebook page, and we now have 100,000 followers on the main Iowa DOT page. We have also developed project-related Facebook pages as a way to get targeted information to customers.
This is the platform where we tell stories. It’s also the place where we get to talk to our customers one-on-one. Anyone can ask questions, make observations, or just post an opinion.
A typical Facebook post will share text, photos, infographics, and videos of interest to our customers. Job postings, safety information, and traffic are popular posts on the main Facebook page. Targeted road condition information resides on the Iowa 511 system’s statewide feed and on separate pages for each region.
X, formerly known as Twitter, is our next most popular Iowa DOT social media platform with nearly 44,000 followers. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2023, 2.2 million people have seen a post from us on this platform. The Iowa DOT has posted more than 27,000 messages on our main X (Twitter) account since 2008.
The platform limits tweets to 280 characters, so we use this platform to push out short bursts of information. Customers do sometimes interact with us on X, but more often than not, it's just us sending out information.
The Iowa DOT has set up a separate Statewide 511 X feed. Like Facebook, this X feed is automatically populated by the 511 system, but manual posts are made to supplement the information fed automatically.
Our account was activated in September 2015 and we’ve posted 5,567 posts that have been seen by 5.4 million people over the lifetime of the account. We’re currently experimenting with ways to integrate posts to Instagram to help tell our story in a visual way through photos and videos and contribute to our overall information-sharing strategy.
You can follow the Iowa DOT on any of these social media platforms by searching for DOT or by clicking the icon at the bottom of the Iowa DOT’s home page.
While Instagram is a platform we use less often, it’s a great way to help us use images to show off the great work the DOT does. We have 4,400 followers and our posts have been seen by nearly 350,000 million people since the beginning of 2023.
This platform was built to post photos that you would look at on your mobile device. It doesn’t support links, so most of the posts are just interesting tidbits and images about what we do every day.
External social media - it's OK to interact!
Many of the people who see and comment on our posts are employees, and that’s great. Seeing the information circulated from the agency helps our employees look outside of their own work and get a broader picture of what we do. In addition, our employees can be some of our best advocates for the work we do and help make friends and family aware of DOT resources.
Henry said, “There is still a misperception by some employees that it is forbidden to check Facebook, X, Instagram, Engage, or the DOT’s blog Transportation Matters for Iowa on state time. That’s simply not the case. Social media can help you increase your knowledge of all things DOT. We are increasingly using social media as a key communication tool, both with customers outside the agency and to get information to employees within our own walls. While the use of social media is covered by policy, I always encourage you to have conversations with your supervisor to discuss expectations around social media use and the value it can bring to your area.”
Henry continued, “Social media is immediate access to information. 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.”