Tales of Transit Tweets

If you’re looking to add a dose of drama to your day, look no further than your local transit agency’s Twitter feed. As CityLab recently noted, there’s no end to the abuse piled on public transit agencies in that social media space.

So what do transit agencies do with the onslaught of criticism and anger, and what should they do? (Although it should be noted that there are positive tweets aimed at transit, too.)

It seems that agencies that take an “active listening” approach and try to engage Twitter followers do better and actually end up with fewer negative comments than those who block users making unkind remarks, or agencies that ignore them altogether and only tweet out information about route delays.

It’s a delicate dance, acknowledges Dan Dawson, vice president of marketing and communications for Capital Metro.

“Social media can be a double-edged sword,” Dawson says. “It gives both us and our customers a fast, immediate way to get information out of each other. The other side of the coin is that it means a small number – sometimes just one person – can take something that isn’t a big deal and make a mountain out of a molehill.”

Dawson says that Capital Metro closely monitors social media and makes daily decisions about how to engage with issues that get aired online. If it’s a specific complaint, he says, they try to respond immediately and fix it. If it’s more general venting, it’s harder to address online.

Yola Blake, a social media expert and strategist with Razorfish, says sometimes the best strategy with negative tweets is to take the conversation off of Twitter and into an email exchange as soon as possible. A simple message saying “we’re sorry to hear that. Contact us here: xxx” can be a quick and empathetic way to address the problem and keep your brand’s image looking good.

Dawson says Capital Metro is also quick to respond to tweets that are inaccurate, so that misinformation doesn’t become de facto knowledge.

“We do so many public meetings about large-scale projects, whether it’s double tracking the Red Line, or having a bus-only lanes downtown,” Dawson says. “We want to make sure people have the right information, so we’ll respond to things that aren’t accurate.”

The good, the bad, and the ugly:

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