Understanding Use of Social Media for Dissemination of Transportation Information

Open Access
Fraser, Janet Lynne
Graduate Program:
Civil Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
January 22, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Paul Peter Jovanis, Dissertation Advisor
  • Eric Todd Donnell, Committee Member
  • Kurt David Johnson, Committee Member
  • Martin T Pietrucha, Committee Member
  • transportation
  • social media
  • communications
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Department of Transportation
This research explores how agencies use social media and how helpful these technologies are from both the agency and social media-using public perspectives. The impetus for this is the increased use of social media among transportation agencies to reach publics using these technologies. Surveys administered to both transportation agencies and the general public, as well as information collected directly from social media accounts, are used to statistically analyze (negative binomial, logit, ordered logit) how agencies utilize social media. Social media content analysis indicates that the content posted by agencies and the mode of the agency (e.g. transit or highway) are particularly important to the popularity of agency Twitter and Facebook accounts. Analysis of the agency survey found greater participation and engagement in social media activities leads to more successful outreach. These activities include events such as monitoring social media for service-impacting events, developing a formal system for collecting content, and establishing a formal social media strategy. Analysis of the general public survey found that those more engaged with technology and less engaged with traditional media have more specific preferences and critiques of agency use of social media. Comparing the results of the surveys, agencies and the general public have a mismatch both in how they perceive success in social media outreach and how information is best communicated. Agencies evaluated their success with social media better than the public did. The agencies also generally thought social media was a better platform for sharing more types of information than the public did. From comparing the results between the two sets of surveys and the content analyses, it is clear that evaluation and guidance tools for social media use for dissemination of transportation information could be helpful to improve the consistency of information shared, a critical weakness identified by the public, because social media are viewed as an increasingly authoritative and legitimate transportation information source.