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Oklahoma officials find ‘tweet’ success on Twitter

Oklahoma officials find ‘tweet’ success on Twitter

Oklahoma officials find ‘tweet’ success on Twitter
Transportation agency has more than 500 followers

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT   - The Oklahoman
Published: October 25, 2009

State Transportation Department officials are touting their latest way to get information out about traffic and construction updates.

• One-way tweets include links to daily Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro-area traffic advisories and any statewide emergency road closures or delays.

• State Transportation Department officials

encourage drivers to check OKDOT before leaving. They strongly discourage texting while driving.

• Information still will be available on the

department’s Web site — — by clicking "Traffic Advisories.”

The department is using Twitter, a social networking site, to get information out about the agency and its work through tweets.

The department has picked up more than 500 followers since launching its pilot Twitter program earlier this month.

"For no longer than we had the pilot available, we think that part of it was successful,” said Tim Gatz, director of capital programs for the Transportation Department.

Officials expect to get a preliminary report this week on its Twitter site, but early indications are it’s an effective way for transportation officials to get the word out about conditions on the state’s highways, he said.

Findings will include how many Twitter users visited the site and how many of them repeated the information in postings called "re-tweets.”

He expects the department to decide in the next couple weeks whether to keep the account.

"Based on the outcomes and the early success that we think we’re seeing, we will likely keep that Twitter account active,” Gatz said. "We haven’t really ventured into the Twitter realm before, but we certainly saw the usefulness of that opportunity, especially as a one-way communication tool to get our travel information out to a broader audience.”

The department launched its Twitter account about a week before the Oct. 17 football clash between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas.

Many motorists headed south on Interstate 35 to Dallas for the game, making it a good test to see whether the new messaging system would be effective, Gatz said.

"That’s a high-traveled weekend on that route and we’re always looking for opportunities to help the traveling public plan their routes,” he said.

Mills Gotcher, a Transportation Department spokeswoman, said the updates are intended for drivers before they go on the road. The agency discourages drivers from texting while driving, she said.

Tweets are monitored, and a general tweet will be posted if several postings inquire about certain conditions or delays, Gotcher said.

The department hired Saxum Public Relations of Oklahoma City to help with its Twitter account and analyze its effectiveness. The firm was paid $7,500.

Members of the department’s media and public relations division post messages on the account.

Gotcher said members have been e-mailing and faxing construction, traffic and weather updates for years to news media organizations and individuals. The Twitter postings are a condensed version.

The Twitter tasks won’t require hiring additional employees, she said.

Gatz said the department’s account should be handy for motorists during the holiday season and during the winter.

"Our expectation is that the public will not use this while they’re driving or while they’re out on the roads,” Gatz said. "We really want them to use this as a planning tool, to take a look at what the conditions are before they leave.”

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