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March 2013

Rail Industry Trends Article
Capital Metro adds Pinterest to social media arsenal

Rail Industry Trends

By Angela Cotey, Associate Editor

For Capital Metro in Austin, Texas, Pinterest has become the latest channel in its social media arsenal aimed at raising brand awareness and communicating with new and prospective riders.

The agency launched its Pinterest page in October 2012, after workers in the communications department spent much of the year developing a social media strategy aimed at defining how Capital Metro would build relationships with passengers and the community. Pinterest, a content-sharing site that allows members to "pin" images to a virtual pinboard, is the fastest-growing social media network, Capital Metro communications officials say. And that's why they decided the agency needs to have a presence.

"It's proven to be a good source for generating website traffic and we wanted to utilize that network to reach farther into the community and attract them to use our system," says Melissa Ayala, a Capital Metro communications specialist. "With that in mind, we decided to focus on the different messages we wanted to convey as an agency on Pinterest."

Those messages now are represented on the agency's Pinterest boards. As of this posting, Capital Metro had 13 boards highlighting things such as the agency's community involvement, rail service, rider-submitted photos and Capital Metro's service offerings during the South by Southwest Festival, held March 8-17. Each board features a handful of pins. For example, a "Ridin' the Rails" board includes pins highlighting the agency's service area, service hours and key destinations. The agency's newest board, "View from the Train," features some of the sights riders will see while traveling along the 32-mile commuter-rail line between Austin and Leander, Texas.

"As a network, Pinterest lends itself more to visual images, so we've found it's a good place for us to feature some photos we take at special events or community events, or even some maps and signage," says Ayala. "And, you can redirect people from the image to a website, so Pinterest has the potential to be a referral site."

With 51 followers as of mid-March, communications department officials are learning the Pinterest ropes as they go. As part of the learning curve, they're working to weave Pinterest into the agency's other social media accounts.

Capital Metro launched a blog on Wordpress in 2008, and created Facebook and Twitter accounts in 2009. Now, communications officials are toying with cross-posting some photos on Facebook or Twitter and Pinterest.

"I think a little bit of redundancy is OK. We can post a photo on Facebook and generate some dialogue around a product or service, but we can post that same picture on Pinterest with a caption that links back to the Facebook dialogue," says Communications Specialist Erica Macioge. "It allows us to capture a few more people. Maybe some people aren't on Facebook but are on Pinterest, or they might not see something that's posted on Facebook because it's more fast-moving."

Social media logistics and policies are all laid out in Capital Metro's new social media strategy. Like many other transit agencies, Capital Metro is finding that social media is helping them better communicate with passengers and keep tabs on how customers feel about the agency and its service.

"It's important for reaching out to the community, driving ridership and improving the image of the agency online," says Macioge.


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