Four Social Media Lessons for Washington Metro Transit

July 18th, 2011

Kudos to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (a.k.a. “Metro” to the locals) for recognizing the tremendous need for a smarter social media strategy.  The Washington Post reports today that Metro is making a significant investment in more aggressive social media.  Will this new digital approach remedy Metro’s chronic communications failures?  Let’s analyze the matter via the PR and social media framework:

Riders will only take Metro as seriously as Metro takes social mediaMetro’s smartest step is hiring a dedicated social media managerSocial media, at least as an organizational and business strategy, requires going all-in to yield any measure of success.  A company’s social media approach can’t be fits-and-starts, it requires discipline and patience to build trust and evolve into an effective communications resource.

Speaking of patience.…  With some really embarrassing incidents under its belt, it’s going to take a long, long time for the ridership-at-large to take Metro seriously any time it claims to implement reform.  When turning around a massive ship of an organization, the leadership must understand that it requires persistence and a good faith effort to get stakeholders to buy-in on any positive publicity momentum.

And, um… where are Metro’s social media links?  This is the biggest strategic communications error Metro continues to make.  Look at Metro’s homepage, and you won’t see the common Twitter, Facebook, and other social media icons and feeds that take you to those social media channels.  An automated slideshow of news items does eventually spotlight the Twitter feed, but you wouldn’t know about it if your timing is off.  Like the tree that falls in the forest, social media outreach lacks value if site visitors can’t appreciate your efforts in the first place.

Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.  Unfortunately for Metro, the folks at Unsuck DC Metro have pretty much cornered the discussion of the transit system’s comedy of, ahem, escalating errors.  The easy (and ineffective) thing for Metro to do would be to ignore the blog.  Instead, we’d recommend Metro actually acknowledge and embrace the blog’s ability to point out the common mistakes and daily annoyances that plague the system, and work together to help reduce these blights.

And with that, bon voyage, Metro – we hope the new social media strategy helps calm the ridership!

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