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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations
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|Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-11-006 Date: September/October 2011|
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-11-006
Issue No: Vol. 75 No. 2
Date: September/October 2011
Social networking and media Web sites have evolved into powerful marketing tools. Arguably, two of the most prominent of these sites are Facebook and YouTube. Since its creation 7 years ago, Facebook has gained more than 500 million active users worldwide, making it the number one social networking site on the Internet. YouTube hosts more than 80 million videos. With such extended networks, these sites can serve as major communication channels through which transportation agencies can reach both targeted and broad audiences in a timely manner.
Recognizing these potential benefits, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officially launched a Facebook page and a YouTube channel in March 2011. The pages are accessible from the home page of the FHWA Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov. FHWA will use these new media to supplement the agency's traditional public communication channels such as newsletters, news releases, and other print media.
"Facebook and YouTube offer the opportunity to share a wide range of information with diverse audiences in a consistent and timely fashion," says FHWA Executive Director Jeff Paniati. "We realize the potential impact of social media and are excited about its communications benefits."
Among other things, Facebook enables individuals to share articles, photographs, and videos. The site also serves as a sort of news ticker service for its users. For example, a registered Facebook user can link to FHWA's Facebook page simply by clicking "Like." The user then will be notified each time FHWA posts something new on its Facebook page, including news items, information on new technologies, or other hot topics.
FHWA uses Facebook to inform multiple audiences about current and completed projects and initiatives. Other uses include recruiting potential employees, promoting events, and sharing photographs and video clips from recent events and speaking engagements. The site is a channel through which FHWA officials hope to engage readers, build interest, and seek public feedback and input.
"In today's fast-paced, mobile world, many people use Facebook as more than a social networking tool," Paniati says. "They also use it as a news source and a way to stay informed about topics that are important to them. Now that can include FHWA."
YouTube offers an opportunity for FHWA to share videos with both broad and targeted audiences. The FHWA You-Tube channel has more than 25 videos covering topics such as National Work Zone Awareness Week, modern roundabouts, and road safety audits. Users have the option to subscribe to the channel to receive notification when FHWA posts new videos.
YouTube is easy to use. From FHWA's YouTube page, users can watch and rate videos, leave feedback, and share or embed links on their Web sites to the videos. In addition, YouTube videos are playable on an estimated 99 percent of the computers linked to the Internet. Users do not have to download video playback software to view the videos. And, all YouTube content is compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (that is, captioned for the hearing impaired).
Facebook and YouTube are interconnected -- extending FHWA's reach to even broader audiences. From You-Tube, FHWA can embed videos to Facebook, enabling anyone viewing a video on the Facebook page to double-click the video and go directly to the YouTube channel. The Facebook page also displays a YouTube tab, which shows the most recent videos. Likewise, the FHWA YouTube page includes a link to the FHWA Facebook page.
"FHWA is a proponent of innovation and embraces new and emerging technologies," says Paniati. "And although FHWA's YouTube and Facebook pages are in their infancy, we see them growing into useful, popular tools for communicating with large audiences."
Tom White is the social media and Web content coordinator in the FHWA Office of Public Affairs.