5 State DOTs Using Social Media to Help Citizens

January 16, 2018 10:10 am PST | Data as a Service
Winter Road Conditions Departments of Transportation Social Media

According to a recent Pew study, 67% of Americans say they get some of their news via social media. Couple that with the fact that two-thirds of Americans use Facebook, 58% use YouTube, and 15% use Twitter, and it becomes clear that social media is an essential tool for organizations to use in their public outreach.

Governments of all shapes and sizes are capitalizing on these tools to engage constituents and spread important messages around public safety, health, and other local issues. Since commuters are often looking for updates on public transportation and highway traffic, departments of transportation are in a unique position to capitalize on this interest and use social media to provide residents with the news they are looking for.

Below, we highlight five state departments of transportation that use social media in noteworthy and clever ways to drive more awareness in their communities.


Washington State Department of Transportation (@WSDOT)

A recent accident brought WSDOT’s quick action and social savvy to the forefront. A new Amtrak train jumped from the tracks, killing at least three passengers and injuring over a hundred others. This devastating incident sparked a national conversation about infrastructure and oversight, which WSDOT gracefully engaged with.

WSDOT quickly updated followers about the incident, using hashtags #AmtrakDerailment and #I5MountsTrain to make sure the message was distributed broadly. They also encouraged commuters to sign up for email and text alerts, issued their formal statement on the accident, and provided a phone number for those with questions about friends or family members involved in the incident — all via social media.

More generally, we love the way WSDOT uses Twitter Moments to collect related content, including this heartwarming story of newborn peregrine falcons that help maintain local bridges. Who knew?

WSDOT also makes their safety warnings more approachable by including humor and gifs.


Washington State DOT Twitter


Wisconsin Department of Transportation (@WisconsinDOT)

WisDot has nailed one crucial aspect of social media: images.

We’ve all seen the signs that remind drivers that bridges may freeze. We love this eye-catching tweet from WisDOT that helps us understand exactly why that happens — and reminds us to be careful.


Wisconsin DOT Twitter


Minnesota Department of Transportation (@MnDOTTraffic)

Minnesota’s social media team clearly loves a good pun — especially in their regular #MessageMonday tweets. Our favorite? “Don’t use a smartphone to make a dumb choice” as part of an anti-texting and driving campaign.

They also use the platform to introduce their hard-working DOT staff to the public. What better way to honor the extended team than by featuring them to their 28,000+ followers?


Minnesota DOT Twitter


Missouri Department of Transportation (@MoDOT)

Any DOT that uses Star Wars to get their message across is a winner in our book.


Missouri DOT Twitter


New Mexico Department of Transportation (@NMDOT)

You could call NMDOT a social butterfly. They regularly retweet other community groups, businesses, and government orgs to help amplify their messages and keep New Mexicans safe. Organizations like NHTSA, StopTheTexts, and Adopt A Highway are frequent names on NMDOT’s feed.


New Mexico DOT Twitter



What can you learn from these DOTs? Here are a few ways to apply social media best practices to your state DOT’s social media accounts:

  1. Use images, GIFs, and video to tell a story (or news) beyond character limits
  2. Add humor or cultural references where appropriate — everyone could use a laugh when sitting in rush hour traffic
  3. Include hashtags about a specific incident to ensure your official communications are part of the broader conversation
  4. Reply to people who ask questions like you would if they reached out through other customer service channels — this helps build trust and rapport

Download Socrata’s guide to creating a connected, data-savvy DOT.

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