Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 Year in Rearview

Because of the economic recession, 2009 will go down as a difficult year for all of us. But we have risen to confront those pressing challenges and delivered for the people of Orange County.

Here are our top 10 transportation stories as we look in our rearview mirror of 2009.

What do you think were the top stories of 2009 and your predictions for 2010?

No. 1
Shovels Break Ground on Riverside Freeway

Underneath a banner that proclaimed "Getting to Work," officials and constructions workers grabbed shovels in November to break ground on the $59.5-million project that will relieve congestion and ease a chronic traffic bottleneck along the Riverside Freeway (SR-91).

This groundbreaking event signaled the long-awaited start of Orange County's largest federal stimulus transportation project that will build a new 6-mile eastbound lane from Anaheim to Corona.

The widening project will add capacity on the eastbound SR-91 freeway between the Eastern Toll Road (SR-241) and the Corona Freeway (SR-71).
"This project was ready to move forward when the funding for construction dried up. If it weren't for the federal funds through the stimulus program, this project would not be moving forward today," said OCTA Board Member Curt Pringle. "This is a huge benefit to our entire community. This investment will have a huge impact on many lives."

The project is funded primarily with $47.9 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) provided additional state funding of $5 million and OCTA contributed $6.6 million from 91 Express Lanes toll revenues.

No. 2
Bus Service Reductions Necessary To Offset Budget Crisis

Due to major cuts in state funding and significant drops in sales tax and fare revenues, the OCTA board of directors voted in November to eliminate 150,000 annual hours of bus service beginning in March 2010 through a combination of eliminating routes, reducing bus frequency, restructuring routes and reducing trips.

"Everybody has been affected by these changes, seniors, people riding ACCESS buses, students from high school to college, mothers with children," Director Art Brown said. "This is something the board does not want to do. If we had our way, we wouldn't cut a minute of bus service."

The board action means that since September 2008, OCTA has reduced 20 percent of bus service — a total of 383,000 annual revenue vehicle hours — to bring service in line with available revenue. OCTA faces a more than $330 million shortfall over the next five years.

No. 3
High-Speed Rail Plan Goes Full Speed

From vision to reality, high-speed rail in California and the nation took off full-speed ahead in 2009.

After the passage of Prop 1A last year, the California High-Speed Rail Authority had a major edge with public support to move forward. Then came the $8 billion available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). With OCTA's $7 million contribution to environmental work on the Anaheim to Los Angeles segment, high-speed rail gained a significant lead over any other segment in the nation, and stands a good chance to receive stimulus funds.

California requested $4.7 billion in ARRA funds for the entire Anaheim to San Francisco system. The Anaheim to Los Angeles segment could receive up to $2 billion, which would be matched with funds from Prop 1A for a fully funded project.

The 27-mile segment would connect to Anaheim via a new transit center, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center. The station is currently in the environmental phase with construction anticipated to begin in 2011 and the station operational in mid-2013.

No. 4
Goodbye Art Leahy, Hello Will Kempton

The OCTA family said goodbye to Art Leahy at the end of March as he left his post as OCTA's CEO to head the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

A few months later, OCTA welcomed the former head of Caltrans, Will Kempton as he took the reins as the new CEO in August.

Kempton, a 35-year veteran of the transportation industry, brings to OCTA a broad understanding of transportation programs and policies that span the ranks of government from local to the federal level.

"I am impressed with this organization, the board and its employees," said Kempton during an information session in his first week as CEO. "I come to OCTA with my eyes wide open, this agency has a great can-do attitude. The board members are terrific. They are engaged and involved. I am excited about the opportunity to serve in Orange County."

No. 5
Bus Fares Increase Due to Economic Short

The OCTA board of directors voted unanimously to raise bus fares beginning in January 2009.

Regular bus fare increased by a quarter to $1.50 a trip, day passes went up $1 to $4, a one-way senior trip increased 10 cents to 60 cents and senior day passes increased 25 cents to $1.25.

"The OCTA has experienced a 185-percent increase in fuel costs since 2005, and the agency's bus operating budget has experienced an $18-million shortfall," said Chris Norby, former chair of the OCTA board.

"That gap could increase to more than $30 million, depending on whether the state's multi-billion dollar budget gap is resolved."

No. 6
Keeping Pedestrians Safe - Undercrossing Opens in Orange

A new pedestrian undercrossing at the Orange Depot opened in August to pedestrians. The undercrossing allows passengers safer access to trains without having to cross the railroad tracks.

The city of Orange and OCTA hosted a community celebration to commemorate the opening and celebrate the city's important historic milestones depicted on a art instillation in the undercrossing.

"Between 1,500 and 2,000 people use that station every day," Director Carolyn Cavecche said. "Safety is an important issue for Metrolink, OCTA and the city of Orange," who worked together to complete a much-needed safety improvement to historic Old Towne Orange.

Crews constructed the $8-million underpass on budget and delivered the safety enhancement in just over one year.

No. 7
Orange County Sign Unveiled on Santa Ana Freeway

Are we there yet? If you're heading south into Orange County on the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5), the question just got a whole lot easier to answer. OCTA unveiled a new monument sign in July welcoming visitors and signaling to locals that they have left Los Angeles and are in Orange County.

"Orange County has long ago broken away from its rural and suburban roots and transformed into a distinct metropolitan area and the monument sign is an excellent way to show the unique character of our county," said OCTA Chairman Peter Buffa.

Standing nearly 20 feet tall, the sign was installed as part of the I-5 Gateway Project. OCTA is among 48 agencies around the state that are participating in Caltrans' gateway monument pilot project, which aims to define and signify the character of individual locations throughout the state.
No. 8
Imperial Highway Grade Separation Completed

Completed in December, nearly one year ahead of schedule, the Imperial Highway (SR-90) grade separation project widened and separated Imperial Highway from the existing railroad at the Esperanza Road and Orangethorpe Avenue intersection in Anaheim and Yorba Linda.

The grade separation eliminates wait time caused by passing trains for the 46,000 drivers that use the road every day.

The community has benefited from the project with improved pedestrian accessibility and reduced noise because trains will no longer routinely sound their horns as they pass through Imperial Highway.

Imperial Highway is the first among multiple grade separation projects occurring in the county during the coming years.

No. 9
OCTA Welcomes K-9 Transit Cop 'Foose'

Foose, a bomb-sniffing dog with the Orange County Sheriff's Department, became part of the first K-9 unit for OCTA in February.

The 2-year-old chocolate Labrador was brought in to work for OCTA thanks to the Department of Homeland Security and a $25,000 grant. Foose's mission: to sniff out suspicious packages on buses and rails. The transit K-9 unit also assists with other bomb-squad activity throughout the county.

Sheriff's officials say that bomb threats are not a big problem in Orange County, but that the new K-9 unit would help make the sheriff's department more visible. Foose and his partner, Deputy Timm Pusztai, started working together last December.

No. 10
Technology Improves Communications for OCTA

In the past year, OCTA has harnessed creative ways to reach customers through new technologies.

In November, OCTA launched Text 4 Next, enabling bus riders to use their cell phones to get the next three scheduled times the bus will arrive at their stop.

The OCTA Web site received a makeover in September, with improved navigation and new interactive tools. By providing improved navigation along with detailed information on all projects and programs, customers will find it easier to access information about their transportation needs.

Social media played an important part in OCTA projects this year. From creative messaging to providing media coverage at the SR-91 groundbreaking event, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were cost-effective tools that conveyed important messages to OCTA's customers and stakeholders.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gov 2.5 in Washington, D.C. -- Transforming Transportation with Social Media

"Just want to mention that OCTA has done a remarkable job of staying in touch with its constituency.

"From the “CEOs Weekly Update” that arrives in my e-mail, to your Web news and audio-casts of interviews, to Twitter, OCTA has done a wonderful job of recognizing citizen concerns and addressing them in a concerned and transparent manner.

"Anybody can do a good job of communicating when times are good, but very few have credible campaigns when things are tough. Kudos for a thoughtful and effective approach to communicating with your public."

-- Alexandra Spencer, Women's Transportation Seminar of Los Angeles

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Public Engagement: Clumsy Fingers, Steady Hand

It’s pretty easy for me to get excited about social media because it’s about the core things that I care about – communications and relationships.

I’ve been in the public relations profession for more than 15 years on both the government and business side, and have experienced firsthand how social media is transforming how we communicate with each other.

As businesses are quickly adapting to the new landscape and figuring out how to utilize social media as part of marketing communications, government is following suit. At least, that’s the prevailing thought.

An argument can be advanced that government or the presidential campaign of Barack Obama fully employed and integrated social media tools – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – into a powerful political arsenal against John McCain last year.

Upon capturing the White House thanks to a surge in young voters who overwhelmingly broke for the Obama camp by a 2-to-1 margin, the social media savvy team delivered on their change mantra, promising accountability, openness and transparency. And in doing so, they shined the public light on an all-too bureaucratic at best and secretive process at worst.

The White House created another YouTube video that featured its new media director, Macon Phillips, sharing ways the federal government is using social media as a resource tool for citizens.

“There is so much potential for how government uses the Web. But it won’t be realized unless you step up and participate,” Phillips exclaims. “So join your government at their Web sites and blogs, through videos and photos, in social networks, widgets and so much more.”

But then the brakes came on July 24 when White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged that the staff were blocked from Twitter. Gibbs even went further to say he did not Twitter and did not know why the executive office chose to block the popular social media site.

At least Americans outside the Oval Office had access to the official @WhiteHouse and @BarackObama Twitter accounts although their own staff from the inside did not.

The news hit home for me at the Orange County Transportation Authority, where I work as the department manager of public communications and media relations. After demonstrating the power and cost-effectiveness of social media, our communications team gained access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites. But other employees did not have access to the same information we were sharing with our stakeholders, the news media and the general public via social media.

President Obama’s trip to China in November took on new meaning during a familiar American-style townhall meeting in the closed-society of the People’s Republic of China.

The question making headlines came from the U.S. Embassy Web site and was read by Jon Huntsman, U.S. ambassador to China. “In a country with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers, do you know of the firewall?" Huntsman read. "And second, should we be able to use Twitter freely?'

'I have never used Twitter. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.'

In a country where the government censors Web sites and blocks Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, here is President Obama’s response: "I have never used Twitter. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone. But I am a big believer in technology, and I'm a big believer in openness when it comes to the flow of information. I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves. That generates new ideas. It encourages creativity."

The president continued by saying that he has "always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I'm a big supporter of noncensorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States that I discussed before, and I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have ... unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged."

He concluded to the crowd of 400 hand-selected students from China’s leading universities: "I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn't flow so freely because then I wouldn't have to listen to people criticizing me all the time … I think people naturally ... when they're in positions of power sometimes think, 'Oh, how could that person say that about me,' or 'That's irresponsible.' … But the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear. It forces me to examine what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States."

It wasn’t his candor of the free-flow of information (that we often take for granted as Americans), but the response that he doesn’t Twitter that caught my attention. His disclosure became a red-hot trending topic on Twitter. I also was perplexed at the huge disconnect between the White House ban of Twitter on its staff and the president’s rhetoric as he lectured the Chinese students in Shanghai on how access to information has made U.S. democracy stronger.

Are we really to believe the avid user of BlackBerry and tech-savvy president doesn’t Twitter because he has clumsy fingers? Does he not know that one can tweet from a regular-sized keyboard on a computer? And what are we to make of those highly personal posts from his @BarackObama Twitter account with more than 2.7 million followers:

· The morning of the Nobel Peace Prize announcement, he simply wrote: “Humbled”

· On Thanksgiving Day, he tweeted: “From my family to yours — Happy Thanksgiving.”

· “Michelle receives this year's White House Christmas tree yesterday. Watch the video: http://bit.ly/4o90RN” was the last tweet on Monday, Nov. 30.

Does this administration really think it can fool Americans, especially the generations that been bombarded with marketing and advertising campaigns most of their lives that they can smell insincerity a mile away? How open, transparent or authentic is this administration if they encourage open access to government and employ ghost-twitterers to get that message out without the benefit of public disclosure, and yet the president’s spokesman doesn’t utilize social media because he said we already see enough of him during news briefings?

But the true challenge is to continue to deliver on that promise of change in how government engages with its citizens
No matter what you think about the president, most people acknowledge that he and his team tapped into technology and harnessed the power of social media to maximize public engagement. One public relations practitioner at a recent national gathering of PR professionals even said that President Obama will be best known in history for unleashing the power of technology and bringing it into the hands of ordinary citizens to do extraordinary things.

But the true challenge is to continue to deliver on that promise of change in how government engages with its citizens. Perhaps the national setting inspires change, but its day-to-day implementation best happens at the local level in communities across America such as in Orange County. Tip O’Neill, the late speaker of the U.S. House, famously asserted, “All politics is local.” In today’s setting, it may be appropriate to say that all action is local.

I’m excited to come to Washington, D.C. for Government 2.5 to share our local story on our challenges in harnessing the power of social media, what we did to overcome numerous obstacles to build and sustain a successful new program called “Public E-volvement.”

Unlike the official White House Twitter account with more than 1.5 million followers that responds to only 2 percent, we’re doing better in Orange County albeit with a smaller but growing 15,000 followers. OCTA is responding to people 64 percent of the time. We’re trying to engage the public and building our numbers. And we’re working hard and gaining a following of other governments and public agencies to follow suit.

Abraham Lincoln said it best in the Gettysburg Address: “…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

It’s up to all of us to read, listen, view, comment, disagree, share, participate and engage at the level of government where we can see tangible results – in the backyards of communities across America.

And it’s equally important for innovative employees in government to be brave and bold in contrast to the comfort of the status quo and actively do adventurous work for the public good – even with clumsy fingers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Engagement before Thursday's OC/PRSA Social Media Panel

Twitter-tistics for OC/PRSA Social Media Panel

DRAFT of OCTA's Social Media Guide for OC/PRSA Panel

We've drafted this social media guide and can't wait to hear what the online community thinks about it. Tell me what you like, what you don't like and how we can improve the guide to create greater transparency and public engagement.


OCTA’s Public E-volvement Program

We have created this information guide and online toolkit to share our thoughts and firsthand experiences using social media to help create greater public transparency, enhance public accountability and strengthen public engagement at the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA).

OCTA’s social media program is integrated into our public outreach efforts. It does not replace – but rather – enhances our ongoing communications and outreach work. OCTA’s public e-volvement program optimizes community involvement and public participation utilizing cost-effective social media tools to create opportunities for meaningful public engagement. That often means cultivating public participation with two-way communications with community members, stakeholders and other people.

People in organizations and businesses are taking the time to use social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. In today’s ever-changing media landscape with decreasing coverage from the news media and rapidly growing social networking sites, it’s crucial to be where the public is.

We hope that you will find the information contained in this guide useful in forming your organization’s social media plan.


OCTA has consistently embraced this proactive communications approach by exploring innovation to refine our outreach to the community. In today’s world that means being an active participant in social media.

Social media is creating exciting opportunities to engage in two-way conversations with customers and stakeholders. People across the country are engaging with businesses and public agencies using these high-tech tools. What better way to know how to best serve your customers than to hear directly from them? Social media has enabled new ways to initiate conversations, track comments, respond to feedback and maintain an active dialogue with customers, stakeholders and the public.






@OCTAnews – Joel Zlotnik

@OCTAbusupdates – OCTA Marketing Dept.

@RailSafeSarah – Sarah Swensson

@91fwy – Fernando Chavarria

@WCCprojectinfo – Christina Byrne

@TedNguyen – OCTA

On average on any given week, OCTA and its communications employees receive approximately 300,000 mentions. That’s a lot impressions or views online generated without the associated cost of paid advertising or promotions.

We directly participate in many of these conversations to ensure our community members know we’re listening and to share information and additional insights.


Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers. Users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter Web site, Short Message Service (SMS) or external applications.


• 72.5% of the 44 million Twitter users joined during the first five months of


• 93.6% of users have less than 100 followers, while 92.4% follow less than 100 people

• More than 50% of all updates are published using tools, mobile and Web-based, other than Twitter.com. TweetDeck is the most popular non-Twitter.com tool with 19.7% market share.

• There are more women on Twitter (53%) than men (47%)

• Twitter age demographic (% of total) Ages: 25-34 - 20%, 35-49 - 42%, 55+ - 17%

Twitter is the latest important component of our team’s social media strategy. By engaging in near real-time conversations, we have quickly addressed issues and provided information to community members. This proactive engagement has helped transform our cynics into advocates. Most importantly, we have built a strong reputation of transparency among the social media community in Southern Californians.

Twitter has become a powerful tool for OCTA for reputation / issues management, media relations, outreach for project studies and construction communications. We have experienced tangible results from difficult issues such as bus service reductions because of massive cuts to transit funding and decreasing sales tax revenue because of the recession. Because the tool has been used properly, Twitter has strengthen our ability to communicate with bus riders and transit advocates with empathy as an organization that cares about customers because they understand we’re trying to help to ease the impact of the bus cuts. Twitter also has generated numerous news stories and provided OCTA an opportunity to communicate directly with stakeholders on transportation studies and construction of freeways.

The limit of 140 characters in a tweet forces a concise message, but also contains links for powerful communications opportunities such as Web sites, news clips, audios or videos. Because these conversations and links are public, we can track and measure them for both qualitative and quantitative results.

We also have experienced other returns from our participation on Twitter such as increasing mentions and active support from other influential users.



• More than 250 million active users

• More than 150 million users log on to Facebook at least once

each day

• More than two-thirds of Facebook users are outside of college

• The fastest growing demographic is those 35 years old and older

• About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States

Facebook is a social networking Web site operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. Users can join networks organized by city, workplace, school and region. People also can add friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves.

OCTA began our presence on Facebook last fall as part of the Read to Work program to highlight the need for federal stimulus funds for shovel-ready transportation projects in Orange County. Since then, we have obtained federal funds for transportation improvements and increased our communications on Facebook to communicate with the public progress of those projects as well as added with numerous programs and projects.

With our Facebook page, our customers, stakeholders, public members and the news media are not only receiving new information as soon as we release it, but they also can go to our page history to see past items. OCTA’s fan page is not only accessible to our fans on the account, but to our fan’s friends. On average, people on Facebook have about 150 friends, each time someone becomes a fan of OCTA, their 150 friends see the information in a live news feed.

The Facebook fan page grows organically by word-of-mouth and friend recommendations. We’ve experienced a steady growth of fans without having to promote the Facebook page. As we are building online content, we are focusing on making the fan page a destination.

Not everyone will visit a company’s Web page everyday, but 150 million people visit Facebook on a daily basis. We are reaching people where they are everyday and partaking in conversations that are happening all over the site.

Our Facebook fan page serves as a hub for our other social media efforts. We post OCTA YouTube videos directly on the fan page as well as pictures to events and links to other project pages such as YouTube videos on the freeway groundbreakings, photos of construction milestones, slideshows with important rail safety information and other postings for community events.

Throughout the project pagers we have linked on our fan page, people who cannot attend events such as open houses can view PowerPoint presentations and even ask questions to project managers online.


YouTube is a videosharing website on which users can upload and share videos.


• YouTube will serve 75 billion video streams to 375 million unique visitors in 2009

• Every minute, 10 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube

• User base is broad in age range, 18-55, evenly divided between males and females, and spanning all geographies

• Fifty-one percent of users go to YouTube weekly or more often

Another powerful tool in communicating OCTA’s authenticity is YouTube. We have created a YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/GoOCTA where viewers can find all of the videos that our team has posted.

We’ve developed a segment called “Transportation in 2” using an inexpensive Flip video camera. We’ve been able to capture some major milestones on camera, including the unveiling the Orange County Gateway sign, the high-speed rail press conference and the SR-91 groundbreaking ceremony. We’ve had more than 6,000 views with all of the videos posted on YouTube.

Creating these videos is quick, easy and extremely cost-effective. The style of the video is not slick or overproduced – it’s authentic – which matches the tone of the current economic climate. Public feedback has been highly supporting with people sharing with us their appreciation of OCTA doing more with less.

Thousands of companies large and small are ramping up their social media efforts from large corporations to small neighborhood shops.

Conversations are happening about your industry, your company, your competitors and your customers whether you are there or not. What is your ROI (Return On Ignoring?)

10 Tips for Your Social Media Trip

1. Get in the know before you go. Do your research and seek to understand the online community. If you want to participate in social media, get engaged in social media by starting your own Twitter account and Facebook page, view YouTube videos and read blogs. There is no better way to learn and understand the culture, tone, best practices and protocol than by doing and asking for help from others online or offline.

2. Always have your ID card to travel online. You can’t be transparent if people don’t know who you are or who you work for. Never be sneaky and try to pull a fast one by planting comments, hiring people to go out and write positive things about you or your organization. And steer clear from ghost writing. Write it yourself and be the real deal.

3. Be your true self in the driver’s seat. Readers can see through spin, marketing and sales talk. Be passionate about what you do and let that show through your personality. Let people see you as a person, not a mouthpiece or logo for your business or organization.

4. On the Road Again. It does take effort, but if you’re passionate about your work and life, your posts will sing. If readers don’t see anything from you for weeks, they won’t see the value of following you on Twitter or Facebook. Share content with people regularly because you care about your reputation and your network.

5. Maximizing your Mileage. Share valuable information, helpful tips, problem-solving tricks, and meaningful insights. All of our time is valuable and if there isn’t value in the conversation, your existing network of people will stop listening to you and stop following you. Your virtual network may then become stagnant. Help people get value from the time they spend with you. By adding value to the conversation, their engagement with you is worth their limited time.

6. Two-way road. It’s about two-way communications, not a dead-end one-way broadcasting system. No one wants to hear about “ME, ME, ME” all the time without any opportunities for comments. If people post a question or issue to you, always address them by using common sense. Sharing a short thank-you will go a long way to respond to questions, comments and concerns. Make it a two-way conversation with the social media community.

7. Listen to the traffic -- horns, beeps, sirens and all. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. The larger part of two-way communications is active listening. Listen to what others have to say. Share your appreciation for the community’s suggestions and feedback. Listening will help you do your job better.

8. Learn from fender-benders. When you make an error, never be afraid to say you were wrong. Quickly acknowledge your mistake and sincerely apologize for that mistake by taking action to change or correct that mistake.

9. Share the Ride. Being part of a community is about sharing with others and learning from them. Don’t hesitate to be externally focused by linking to other followers or friends’ blogs, audio, videos, news articles or Web sites. Share what others have to say.

10. Get Your Kicks on Route 66. One of the most important but overlooked tips is to have fun with social media. It’s work for your business or organization, but the fun kind of work. If you’re not enjoying what you do, others will likely take notice and won’t enjoy the interaction with you. Be positive and have fun on this journey of social media that will take you to exciting places with amazing people you’ll meet alone the way.


“Fluent: The Razorfish Social Influence Marketing Report”

Organizations must:

  • Socialize with their customers because “top-down” advertising isn’t going to work by itself
  • Develop a credible voice along the parameters of engagement, humility, and authenticity
  • Make their social relationships more symmetrical—that is, with value for both the brand and the customer

This top 10 list for Twitter usage also is in the report:

1. Become familiar with Twitter by reviewing, or following, the activities of successful brands such as Dell (dell.com/twitter), Zappos (twitter.com/zappos) and Comcast (twitter.com/comcastcares).

2. Listen to what is already being said on Twitter about your brand.

3. Identify initial objectives for using Twitter, including what would qualify as a Twitter success story for your brand.

4. Look into competitive activities and potential legal considerations, especially if there is already a Twitter account that uses your brand’s name or other intellectual property associated with it.

5. Use the findings to decide on the appropriate opportunity such community building, tone of voice and method of engagement that may be right for your brand.

6. Since Twitter is an ongoing activity – even if your company is only listening in – dedicate a resource to monitor the conversations and competitors.

7. Map out a plan for the content you will share, including valuable initial content to pique user interest.

8. Integrate your Twitter account throughout your marketing experience, by embedding it as a feed on the company Web site, including its URL in communications and so forth.

9. Maintain momentum by following everyone who follows you, responding to queries and joining in conversations without being too marketing oriented.

10. Provide ongoing direct value through your tweets by continuing to listen, learn and fine-tune your Twitter activities.

Source: Fluent: The Razorfish Social Influence Marketing Report

Getting Started

Before you jump in to social media think about some basic questions:

• Why do I want to participate in social media?

• How can social media improve my business or organization?

• How will social media be incorporated into my overall customer experience?

We’ve developed an interactive online toolkit for OCTA’s Public E-volvement Program that contains step-by-step directions on how to get started on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Skype.

You can access the site at www.octa.net/SocialMedia

Social Media

Road Rules for Engagement

  1. Abide by the OCTA Code of Conduct. Following the Code of Conduct will ensure proper navigation of social media and will help cultivate greater transparency and accountability for Orange County’s taxpayers.

  1. Be transparent. Identify yourself and your relationship with OCTA. Like other public communications programs, only official spokespeople and those authorized project managers can speak on behalf OCTA and use OCTA images and logos.

  1. Share public information. Online postings and conversations are public – not private. OCTA is a public agency with certain cases of private or confidential information. Respect confidentiality and protected information. The OCTA team is encouraged to share public information that will help contribute to public engagement. Because of OCTA’s role as stewards of taxpayer dollars to deliver transportation solutions, public involvement drives our work.

  1. Be accurate and truthful. OCTA’s involvement with social media should help advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information by serving the public interest and by contributing to informed decision-making.

  1. Contribute to the conversation. Communicate with online users as if engaging in a dialogue with people in a professional setting. Post meaningful and respectful comments, reply to questions and comments in a timely manner, and share thought-provoking or interesting information and positive engagement to enhance the online community in Orange County.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rail Safety: Too Close for Comfort

This news video is another example of the importance of rail safety. Thanks to the quick action of passengers and a train operator in Boston, the story does have a happening ending.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Jumping (Secretly) for LinkedIn Author Neal Schaffer

Imagine throwing a party by broadcasting it over an intercom system and trying to keep it hush-hush for the honored guest.

That's exactly what happened when the close-knit social media community in Orange County threw blogger and author Neal Schaffer, an advocate for transportation innovation, a surprise bash to launch his new book on LinkedIn. It was no easy task to keep a surprise on the cost-effective tools of social media that rely on transparency and openness for power to drive information to users.

After a short ruse, Schaffer arrived in awe to the warm wishes of 150 people.