Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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 TweetDeck is the most popular 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 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 (, Zappos ( and Comcast (

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

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.

1 comment:

  1. Ted, I think the information on this is good. Are you also establishing a policy on exactly when employees will be allowed to use social media and how much? Also, workflow/escalation policy? I think that's the crucial area that has a lot of companies/organizations concerned. Marie Nordhues, Auto Club