MTA — Transit in New York City

It’s been a while since my last few posts about GO Transit’s use of social media. Turns out, there will be a few more from me and a few classmates (Aaron, Ana and Tanya)!

The team and I decided we’d look at a few other, comparable major cities and their transit systems. This post will be a brief snapshot of how the Metropolitan Transit Authority (in New York City) uses social media.

image via MTA website

Website

MTA has a very similar website to GO Transit’s. Both post updates, governance information, a trip planner and customer-friendly information, for instance.

The advantage to the MTA website is a Service Status update. This section updates users with the different transit lines’ service assessments. As you can see in the image below, the application is divided into different sections such as subway, rail, bus, and bridges and tunnels. And then each transit line (depending on which category it falls under) gets its own little service rating. This application can be downloaded as a widget and shared via social media.

MTA Service Status screenshot

The team thinks that this application is something that could easily be adopted by GO Transit. It would be a simpler application for GO because it would only be divided into rail and bus, and each route under those headings would have its own service status posted.

Twitter and Facebook

MTA has a Twitter account (@MTAInsider). Here are a few of the Twitter account stats as of March 12, 2012:

  • ~21,000 Followers
  • Following ~100
  • ~2,000 tweets to date

The @MTAInsider tweets are similar to @GetontheGO tweets but the account user responds more to direct messages. So, instead of posting a generic “please contact a customer service representative,” the account users engage and then respond with more specific instructions.

The @MTAInsider profile clearly states that the Twitter account is not monitored 24-7.

MTA also has a Facebook page, which is very similar to GO Transit’s page.  MTA posts updates, people respond and use the page to comment (both negatively and positively) about service.

Goals

The team is focusing on GO Transit’s “Keeping you in the know” goal. With that in mind, I think we can take a few tips from how MTA does employs the use of social media. The company’s use of social media isn’t perfect, but maybe GO Transit can become a leader in its use and application of social media in Canada.

So far the team’s still in the research phase, using Google Docs and a few of the other tools at our disposal. Suggestions, and some more research to come!

Ahem: the pitch

So I already alluded to my pitch as part of my research summary so this won’t be unfamiliar ground.

I’m going to follow Scott Berkun’s advice on “How to pitch an idea”…particularly step 4, specific to a written pitch.

You’ll notice that it builds progressively…so for the whole shebang, you can read the 5-minute version.

*clears throat*

 

The napkin

The napkin


5-second

I know how we can make GO Transit more accessible, to a wider passenger audience.

 

The napkin: stage 2


30-second

I know how we can make GO Transit more accessible, to a wider passenger audience. There’s an opportunity to leverage the social media platforms GO Transit already uses. We have such an online presence and ways to engage our passengers, but we could do more to cross-promote our use of social media. By offering yet another way for our passengers to engage in a dialogue, we can continue to build trust. And ultimately, we’ll be able to show our passengers that we are addressing issues and we’ll be able to showcase route expansions and other positive things to our customers to keep them in the know.

 

The napkin: stage 3


5-minute    

I know how we can make GO Transit more accessible, to a wider passenger audience. There’s an opportunity to leverage the social media platforms GO Transit already uses. We have such an online presence and ways to engage our passengers, but we could do more to cross-promote our use of social media. By offering yet another way for our passengers to engage in a dialogue, we can continue to build trust. And ultimately, we’ll be able to show our passengers that we are addressing issues and we’ll be able to showcase route expansions and other positive things to our customers to keep them in the know.

Now there are things to consider, and we’ll need to do a lot of work up front to make sure we’re well-positioned to handle all that using social media means: the good, the bad and the ugly. We have to be aware of the issues our passengers bring to our attention through surveys and properly integrate our increased use of social media with all of the ways we presently communicate with our passengers.

By focusing on increasing our presence on three key social media platforms – Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – we’ll have a better chance of reaching a wider passenger audience. The more reliable and consistent access points we offer to customers as options to engage with us, the more likely we’ll be to increase our reach. But we have to start somewhere. And if we spend time and commit resources at the beginning of this process, we’ll be able to use social media strategically and influence public perception.

Part of the problem is that many of our passengers don’t know that we’re using social media. We can’t risk falling behind in the social media stratosphere. Our audiences are already there, so we need to go to them to make sure we’re engaging with them. I’m not saying it’ll be a walk in the park; this will take work and constant vigilance. We can’t start this and not follow through. We’ll have to dedicate resources to community management and engagement.

Increased dialogue is what we want, and what we need. When positioning things like a fare hike, our passengers will be able to voice concerns or encouragement in more online forums. Our supporters will help us respond to the negative and we’ll be able to reinforce our messaging. And our critics will feel like they’ve been heard.

This is directly related to our third customer promise: “Keeping you in the know.” Increased use of social media completely reaffirms that commitment.

I have to fall back on building trust. If we become a reliable source on multiple social media platforms, our passengers will see value in engaging with our business. If they can depend on us for consistent, transparent and real-time communication, they will certainly never feel like we left them hanging. If passengers see that added value from using our service, our profits will surely follow.

We have a great starting point. We’re already using social media. We have clear goals and a focus on safety that’s widely known. We’re committed to keeping passengers in the know. And we can leverage our online presence in other areas for an effective “re-launch”.

We can’t ignore this opportunity. The framework’s in place – all we have to do is build on it.

Get on the GO

I’ve made some progress on my assignment and I thought I’d share it with the #smrtcce folks. It’s gonna be a long one, so buckle up! (Isn’t it fun to use transportation-related clichés? Yes.)

Here’s a list of where I’ve been going to do some of my GO Transit research:

  • News articles (GO-related and competitor-related such as VIA Rail, thanks to @TheBethAmer)
  • Twitter (@GetontheGO)
  • Facebook (Get on the GO)
  • LinkedIn (company profile only – of note anyway)
  • Get on the GO YouTube channel
  • The Smart Commute website
  • Another blogger I found (CJ Smith) – This Crazy Train (she’s also on Twitter @ThisCrazyTrain)
  • The GO Transit website
  • I even grabbed a “GO News” booklet while I was on the GO bus last week (I’m pretty sure someone yelled out “Loser!” when I did, but I can’t be sure…it was dark)

Here’s a small summary of my findings (just some extras to compliment the SWOT analysis below):

@GetontheGO has ~4,500 followers on Twitter but has only tweeted 315 times. Most of the tweets are duplicated in French or are re-tweets, so that means they’ve probably only tweeted about 150 times. Doesn’t seem like much considering many #smrtcce-ers are gaining on them. Lots of 2-way information here though.

Get on the GO has just over 2,000 “Likes” on Facebook, and a little disclaimer asking posters to “keep your mom proud!” You can read the whole thing here. Its presence here seems lacking.

GO Transit has a Passenger Charter that’s posted everywhere. You’ve probably seen it and not even realized it. Basically there are 5 customer promises GO Transit sets out to keep. The one that factors in to my assignment is “Keeping you in the know”. This is where GO Transit lists all the ways passengers can stay informed about pertinent GO-related information. You’ll notice none of the items on the list refer to social media (even though they use social media). Now you can’t really blame them – social media is not frequently praised by governmental bodies. But, huzzah! Enter, Dani. Here’s my chance to capitalize on an untapped communications medium. This will frame my pitch.

Before that, here’s the good ol’ SWOT analysis of GO Transit’s social media engagement:

Strengths (internal)

  • Already using social media (which may mean a social media policy is already in place)
  • Clear company goals/charter
  • GO Transit’s focus on safety
  • Committed to keeping passengers in the know
  • Government-backing (and therefore, funding)
  • Engaged with followers, even if feedback is negative

Weaknesses (internal)

  • Potential lack of resources to manage increased use of social media
  • Not effectively cross-referencing all news in social media yet
  • Governmental influence potentially restricting increased use of social media
  • Not promoting their own use of social media

Opportunities (external)

  • Exploit use of social media and engage a wider audience
  • Potential for promotional programs
  • Diverse passenger demographic
  • Increased public focus on environmental solutions (GO Transit encourages reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and caters to the “Going Green” trend)
  • Endorsements and cross-promotion from industry partners (such as Smart Commute)
  • Planned route expansions and Union Station renovations

Threats (external)

  • Diverse passenger demographic
  • Disengaged and apathetic passengers
  • Alienating passengers who don’t use social media
  • Over-saturating passengers with GO-related information from many varying outlets
  • Misuse of social media by GO Transit
  • Recent fare-hike announcement (to go into effect on February 18, 2012)

This SWOT analysis is nice and tidy at first glance, but it’s packed with implications. For example, “diverse passengers” are both an opportunity and a threat. Social media is great because you can reach a wider audience but it’s harder to cater messages to a wider audience and some of that audience may not want to be engaged through social media. Tricky, tricky.

So, looks like GO Transit’s got a few issues to work on. The company is going to have to balance its reputation (which varies widely among passengers) and affiliations with Metrolinx (that governmental body I mentioned previously). GO Transit engages passengers in many ways, using surveys and some social media, but just announced a fare-hike. Why did I choose this topic again? It’s the same reason I’m taking 3 classes in Hamilton while working full-time in Toronto: I’m a glutton for punishment. But I like to think of it as “I like a challenge”. So as I ponder these issues, and my SWOT analysis, it looks like I’ll have to frame my pitch carefully.

With a little help from my friends in sales, I’ll try address the threats with careful planning and by exploiting the opportunities. Now to work on that elevator speech…

Noooooooooo: a dramatic reading

In doing some research on GO Transit, I came across this article from the Spec: http://www.thespec.com/news/ontario/article/652000–go-transit-to-hike-fares-starting-feb-18.

Basically the article announces that GO Transit will be raising its fares as of February 18, 2012.

Fiddlesticks. (I guess that reaction’s less dramatic than my title would suggest.) Looks like I’ll be stocking up on tickets before next month.

The silver lining? It’ll be an interesting conversation (if it truly is a dialogue) to follow on social media.

High-speed chase

I think I’ve got a research topic. Excited? Me too. So, as the title would suggest: let’s cut to the chase!

I spend a lot of time on the GO, getting to and from class 3 times a week. And I talk about it all the time (ad nauseam, I know). So, DUH  – I think I’ll go with that. I know enough about it and I’ll be able to get some research done en route. Ahhh, efficiency.

But it’s not all about me. Transportation is an issue for most people. If you drive for your commute, you’ve probably complained about traffic at least once. And if you take public transit, you have undoubtedly endured (significant) delays at one time or another. In the jockeying for highway space and among the debates about provincial and local public transit, I’ll bet that most of us have engaged in multiple conversations about it.

Some of my classmates will remember my other GO Transit project. Clearly I have some investment in it (I told you: ad nauseam). The difference will be the focus on (or even the mention of) the company’s use of social media.

I’m already following them on Twitter. And I know they have a Facebook page. I’ll have to see if anyone’s blogging about them and follow more press coverage on their goings-on. There’s gotta be something. I just don’t want to have to resort to watching old episodes of Train 48. Please tell me someone remembers that TV show…

I’ve got to get this project on the go (pun intended), and fast, because I’m quickly running out of time before a work trip interrupts my new routines. I’ve got some ideas on how to relate my project back to the movie, Speed (I HAD to include this clip from The Simpsonshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsA4FnwrR7E). But suggestions or feedback on the topic, and hints of where I might find more, are more than welcome.