The man beind Metro’s social media strategy

The Washington City Paper profiles Dan Stessel, chief spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (DC) and the driving force behind the agency’s new social media strategy. Stessel came to WMATA in May and started tweeting almost immediately. Riders, who had been used to automated service alerts on Twitter and not much else, took notice almost immediately.

The explosion of interest shows that for years, Metro riders have been starved for information. They now have a human ear, and they’re practically twisting it off: When Stessel tweeted an invitation for 50 Metro followers to join a pilot program to refill their SmarTrip cards online, the list filled up in four minutes.

In Stessel’s few months on the job, the number of Metro’s Twitter followers has doubled from 7,000 to more than 14,000 today. But the more Metro tweeted, the more people expected and Stessel’s honeymoon didn’t last long. One local blogger likened WMATA’s expanded social media activities to putting “Band-Aids on the public image,” and another thinks WMATA has become too cozy with the local press. Stessel sees his approach more as a work in progress. “We’re building the bike while we’re riding it,” he told the Washington City Paper. “And it’s like having a handful of people on the side of the road yelling, ‘Ride faster! Ride harder!’” Link to full story in Washington City Paper.

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