Combining an engaging online survey with a social media strategy has proven to be a successful approach to promoting community engagement opportunities online and achieving exceptional results. Intriguing social media posts can help guide individuals to your project site and an engaging platform, like an online survey, converts site visitors into actual participants.
The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has mastered both elements, excelling at both social media strategy and online survey creation! They continually engage thousands in their LRTPs and transit plans. In their recent public engagement outreach for the 2040 Maryland Transportation Plan, the team was able to gather public input from over 5,900 participants!
Read on as we explore how the agency used an online MetroQuest survey and paid social media to engage 1000s across the State and uncover the public’s top priorities for an important State plan.
MDOT’s Transition to Online Public Engagement
Every 5 years, MDOT updates the Maryland Transportation Plan (MTP), which establishes a 20-year vision for multi-modal transportation in the State. The policy-based plan focuses on transportation needs, goals, objectives, policies and plans, and outlines transportation policies, priorities and investment decisions.
In the past, MDOT used traditional public outreach methods and strategies to gather public input to update the transportation plan. Traditional, in-person engagement, however, proved to be expensive, time-consuming and ineffective. At some meetings, staff members outnumbered stakeholders 5 to 1! It was also very challenging to engage the public about conceptual and complex transportation issues during in-person meetings.
For their most recent MTP update, MDOT revamped their outreach strategy and used a MetroQuest survey, available in both English and Spanish, and social media to significantly increase their online participation and enhance the public engagement experience for the community. Let’s dive into the strategies that led to their success with social media.
How MDOT Designed an Effective Survey for the 2040 Maryland Transportation Plan
Participants were asked to identify their top 5 transportation priorities out of a list of 8, and later rate strategies that directly corresponded to those priorities. As the survey states, “identifying the transportation priorities for Maryland helps MDOT set the strategic direction to preserve, maintain, and expand our multimodal transportation system”.
MDOT identified the strategies as viable plans for improving the transportation system in the State. The team used a combination of the Priority Ranking Screen and the Strategy Rating Screen to provided respondents with a tailored online experience and allow MDOT to collect more meaningful data about whether or not the community agreed with prospective strategies.
Compared to the traditional outreach strategies that were used previously to gather input and update the plan, the MetroQuest survey gave the community a safe and engaging online experience, providing the agency with quantifiable data and informed input they could trust to update the plan! Paired with social media, this provided MDOT with an effective combination of actionable public input and wide-reaching promotional strategy.
Using Social Media to Boost Public Engagement for Maryland’s MTP
To increase survey participation, MDOT integrated both organic and paid social media into their outreach strategy. Along with email blasts and posts on both the project site and MDOT’s website, the agency primarily used Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share and promote the survey and encourage the public to participate in the plan. These efforts quickly proved to be successful, with nearly 1,500 participants providing feedback within the first 2 months!
MDOT used targeted Facebook ads to increase survey participation throughout the State and received an incredible return. Let’s take a look!
As addressed in a webinar with MetroQuest, the agency was able to triple the number of survey responses in half the number of days by incorporating interactive Facebook ads into their outreach plan. The effectiveness of paid ads is very evident in the graphic above; the agency engaged over 3,000 participants in just 25 days by promoting their MetroQuest survey with Facebook.
As the panel explains in the webinar, eye-catching ads intrigued social media users. The agency also targeted specific demographics and geographic areas to help convert more people into participants and attempt to match the State’s diverse demographics. To learn about the top tips of using Facebook to effectively promote your public engagement survey, check out our recent blog.
By combining MetroQuest and social media, MDOT engaged nearly 6,000 survey participants, received over 500,000 total impressions online, reached over 190,000 people and obtained 300 shares on Facebook. The agency also was able to significantly grow participation in geographic and demographic areas where participation was traditionally very low.
Congratulations to MDOT for cracking the code and achieving incredible public engagement results online!
To learn more about MDOT’s project and outreach strategies for growing participation online and achieving engagement success, check out our on-demand webinar here.
Transit Plans to LRTP – MDOT’s Formula for Engaging 1000s
How do we engage the public to gather meaningful input? Maryland DOT has cracked the code! Learn how you can engage 1000s on a full range of public outreach projects.