The agency considers Twitter

We’re exploring Twitter.

KDOT has issued area-specific road/traffic/weather tweets for several months, thanks to the foresight of Tom Hein, our Wichita public affairs manager. Tom was hip to Twitter early on, way before me, and was issuing road update tweets even before K-TOC launched. Kim Qualls started doing the same thing for Kansas City and Topeka almost immediately thereafter. They initiated the outreach on their own. We held a staff meeting a couple of months later to regularize the practice. I tweet @KDOTHQ, mostly driving traffic to new K-TOC posts, although there’s also a cool staccato conversation underway tracking the progress of Rep. Oberstar’s proposed Surface Transportation Act.

When I checked Wednesday afternoon there were about 20 Departments of Transportation on Twitter. (Plus Ray LaHood!) It’s a natural medium for DOTs, which are perpetually interested in broadcast technologies suitable for real-time road updates. Twitteris perfect. I say “on Wednesday” because the number has probably gone up since then. Although the rate is slowing, the service continues to grow like a weed.

K-TOC rumbles along. I went on the road for awhile, got away from the community, traffic went down. Came back, spread a little TLC, traffic is climbing. Duh. Every time we do a fact-finder for another agency, they ask about the staff required to maintain the community. The answer, at least for us—K-TOC has almost 700 members and is being incorporated into KDOT’s baseline public-outreach efforts—is, “at least one.” The community shouldn’t be left untended. We went from 125 visitors a day down to 60. We’re back in the 80s now, and climbing. Yes, son, you can have a puppy, but you have to feed it and water it and clean up its messes.

I’m lobbying Leverage, our technology partner, for a community platform mod to permit interoperability between K-TOC and Twitter and Facebook. KDOT hasn’t yet established a Facebook page, but we’re working on it.

The continuing crisis in Iran keeps a bright light on government and social media. There are warnings in the air, for those with the wit to hear them.

The Big Network will soon cause—is already causing—seismic shifts in the relationship between government and governed. The governed will demand ever-more transparent official decision-making by government. They will demand maximum information mobility. Institutions that wait too long to engage these issues on their own risk having an external model thrust upon them, because the pressure to implement these technologies in the service of transparency is already formidable. Just ask CNN.

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Good post. A key part to any social media outreach is a great community manager. It can be kind of an amorphous role as it’s new and a different skill set but essential to any efforts. You need someone who knows how to organize, lead the conversation, kick out any bad noise, and just generally make the community live.

Allen Sheaprd

Not only a good but ‘hip’ community manager who will take the message to the people in the form they want. Some like twitter, some like paper or a phone call.
Interestingly my friends have said they trust twitter or radio broad cast more than a highway sign because they know it is current. The Highway sign does not have a date or time.
Oddly for me it does not have to be a local radio. Sirius radio does traffic reports and I trust them when traveling as I do not know the local stations.