Ingrid Schneider, Kathryn Quick, Melissa Peck, Ben Pflughoeft
Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB) supported the University of Minnesota to investigate social media options for effective public engagement. A three-part approach assessed 1) the state of social media use through a literature review, 2) the status of social media use and interest in its use for transportation in Minnesota compared to national data, and 3) actual and perceived effectiveness of social media in two pairs of case studies in Minnesota. In sum, results reveal social media is effective as a strategic and select part of engagement plans and can likely effectively engage select groups. Survey results revealed 11-21% of respondents participated in planning for transportation programs, policies or projects in the last 12 months, 72% use social media of some sort, and 36% expressed interest in using social media to get information, provide feedback or make suggestions related to transportation. Finally, social media analytics and interviews related to four case studies revealed social media does indeed lead transportation projects to make more connections with stakeholders, but the quality and effectiveness of those connections vary. Four main opportunities include: 1) integrating social media into multi-pronged, dynamic engagement approaches, 2) considering the demographic qualities of the key stakeholders to determine how social media can be most useful, 3) employing best practices for social media engagement, and 4) expanding and/ or developing research and evaluation plans to understand and assess future social media engagement efforts.
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