Social Media: What Edmonton Transit (ETS) could learn from TransLink

I think the South Coast BC Transportation Authority, or TransLink, is one of the most web-savvy transit organizations in Canada. Through blog posts, videos, meetups, and more, TransLink is doing a great job of fostering a community of people interested in transit. I think Edmonton Transit (ETS) could learn a lot from them!

The Buzzer blog

The Buzzer is a free publication found on all TransLink vehicles (our equivalent is In Transit) and The Buzzer blog is its companion. The blog is described as a “frank, fun, and ongoing conversation about TransLink and its work.” Every time I read it, I find myself wishing that ETS had something similar! Here’s what I love about the blog:

  • It is updated regularly – almost a post per day!
  • They have comments enabled – and they participate in them!
  • They post about a variety of topics, not just announcements and service updates
  • There are clearly defined Participation Guidelines

Most importantly, the blog is written with a human voice. It’s interesting and easy to read.

What ETS could learn: The easiest, most effective way to get involved is to start a friendly, regularly updated blog. It forms the foundation of TransLink’s social media efforts, and could perform the same role for ETS. This should be priority #1!

TransLinkInfo on YouTube

Video is time-consuming both to produce and to consume, so while it shouldn’t be the primary form of communication there are times when video is handy. TransLink gets this. They primarily post short updates and announcements on their YouTube channel. Videos range from about 30 seconds to 5 minutes. I think it could be a good vehicle for “behind-the-scenes” kinds of stories as well.

What ETS could learn: Pick the right tool for the job. There’s more to the web than just text, so venture into other forms of media too!

TransLink on Twitter

There are a few TransLink accounts on Twitter: @thebuzzer, @KenHardie, @2010Transit, and @TransLink. I think the 2010 account will get more interesting as the Olympics near, and The Buzzer account could probably be used for more than just broadcasting, but they are on Twitter and are evaluating how to use it better (they recently polled the community to see if they wanted Twitter service alerts). It’s pretty cool that Ken Hardie, Director of Communications at TransLink, is an active user.

What ETS could learn: Twitter is growing incredibly quickly and is becoming an increasingly important platform for news and connections. TransLink is guessing (I think correctly) that Twitter will be a key communications tool for the 2010 Olympics, and they’re getting prepared now. ETS would be wise to make use of Twitter on a regular basis, and especially during Edmonton’s major events.

I Love Transit Week & The Buzzer Meetup

TransLink celebrated I Love Transit Week on its blog from February 23rd to 27th. I like their introduction to the event:

Why? Because while there are things we don’t like about transit, I know there are many things that we do like about the system. And there just hasn’t been an official opportunity to celebrate what we like – until now!

That could definitely apply to something similar here in Edmonton. We always hear people complain, but there are lots of things to like as well. TransLink did a good job of keeping the blog updated with I Love Transit Week content.

The other cool thing they did that week, was the meetup. They hosted the gathering at a local cafe, and brought transit-related swag to give away. Face-to-face conversations are always best, so the meetup was a great (and obvious) idea.

What ETS could learn: The annual Community Conference is a formal, one-way conversation – ETS speaking to a select few. Meetups are more informal, and are two-way. They allow the community to put human faces to the organization. Plus they can be a ton of fun!

Final Thoughts

I don’t mean to suggest that TransLink is perfect, because they’re not. And to be fair, ETS acknowledges that it has a lot of work to do in the area of community engagement. Like many other organizations they are new to social media, and are going to have to learn quickly.

Conversations about the state of transit in Edmonton are happening, but ETS isn’t yet participating. The sooner they get involved, the better off they’ll be. Fortunately for ETS, they don’t have to start from scratch. Others like TransLink are already leading the way!

4 thoughts on “Social Media: What Edmonton Transit (ETS) could learn from TransLink

  1. Awesome. I completely agree. The ETS needs a strong online voice and community. The also need to get rid of cheesy mascots like BOB and Captain Commute.

    I’m with you on this, big time.

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