Road Safety with Arrive Alive on Twitter: Why does it Matter? What have we Learned?
It has taken a while but we are proud to confirm that the Twitter handle of the Arrive Alive Online Initiative @_ArriveAlive has reached the 200,000 followers mark.
This number is a bit of a milestone and an indication that we may be heading on the right path to reaching an online audience that could distribute our road safety messages much wider.
It was Maya Angelou who said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
We will strive to do better as we continue this journey!
It may be appropriate to reveal why we regard this medium as important and share some of the lessons we learned on our journey with road safety on Twitter.
Why is Twitter important in creating Road Safety Awareness?
There are many platforms allowing the user to share information, video and other visuals. The power of Twitter for the Arrive Alive Online initiative is the ability to share information and advice fast and effectively in response to events as they happen. Road users can be informed of a road closure, flood risks, strong winds or other safety threats as they occur. We can also refer the recipients of such info to the Arrive Alive website where more comprehensive information and advice are available.
The positioning of @_ArriveAlive on Twitter
Where do we see ourselves?
The Arrive Alive twitter handle cannot be grouped together with Twitter handles of Celebrities or Big Corporate Brands. It should be viewed along with other worthy causes and initiatives of NGO’s to make a difference in the lives of everyday people and more specifically your everyday road user.
The Arrive Alive Online Initiative has been developed since 2003 with the aim of creating more awareness on road safety. This has since been developed by never more than a team of 3 persons. [Team leader, Programmer and Assistant Programmer]. It is not funded by the Transport Department and except for partnering with the parastatal, the Road Accident Fund since January 2017, only via the support of road safety partners from the private sector.
The Twitter handle @_Arrive Alive is one of the components of the Arrive Alive Online Initiative - we could say one of the weapons in our arsenal. Due to budgetary restraints, it has never been possible to pay a social media or digital agency or group doing “community building”. Growth in following has been “organic” as there were never any funds paid for “sponsored tweets” or other methods aimed at attracting a following.
What have we learned in our Journey with Twitter?
Eye on the Target and the Vision - A Regular Reminder
It is important to regularly reflect on the vision of creating awareness of road safety. The target audience is not only the individual online visitor but also those journalists, teachers and community influencers who can distribute road safety information and messages to a much wider audience.
It is very easy to become so focused on tweeting messages but failing to consider the exact purpose, the intended recipient and how that message may be received and interpreted.
We have to pause every now and then and question the “method behind the madness”. How do we do what we do and why do we do it the way we do it?
A simple example:
A Tweet such as “Wearing Seatbelts and Buckling Up” - This can be tweeted in many different messages. By only referring to the core message of "Buckling up yourself and your Passengers" the message may not be informative enough that it includes the passengers in the back seat of the vehicle. By questioning every tweet we can ensure that the message finds the intended target effectively!
Consistency in Effort / Gaining Reputational Points
We have learned from our own as well as the mistakes of other fellow twitter users. To be effective there must be consistency and continuity of action. Many corporate twitter handles are failing their followers when they are inactive for days, only to then suddenly tweet several tweets in a short time frame as an attempt to “catch-up”.
Through consistency, it is possible to gain reputational points and some credibility among the followers.
Timing is Everything: It is a Live Medium - Be Alert and Alive!
For a medium that strives to provide safety and possibly life-saving information, it is important to respond to events as they unfold. When there are a major storm and strong winds, it is important to ensure that not only the news is shared as it happens via Twitter, but also the safety information and recommendations on how to adjust driving behaviour in such conditions.
Other news media need that information to include in their editorial and are able to direct their readers to the Arrive Alive Online Initiative for further information that might not be able to be included in the short format of a tweet.
Visuals attract an Audience - But Don’t be TOO visual!
Visuals from crash scenes attract an audience but it is always important to scrutinize what is shared and what not. Many road users send visuals from the road but not everyone remains cautious as to the impact that it might have on the more sensitive viewers.
Even though something horrific might go viral and lead to more followers, it is important to be sensitive and respectful and not share visuals of road crash victims killed and trapped within their vehicles etc.
Video footage of incidents as well as road safety advertisements and animations are invaluable in distributing road safety messages and create additional awareness. Twitter allows us to share not only the limited number of characters in a tweet in word format but also share a visual with additional information.
Collaborate to Mutual Benefit
It is important to recognize that much more can be achieved by collaborating with others. There are other very influential individuals and entities in social media who can assist to share insights with an audience that might not yet be following the Arrive Alive handle.
By collaborating and responding to tweets and sharing tweets from those other handles mutual benefit can be created for a much wider audience!
The platform also enables us to share important information with our road safety partners, many of which are corporates with experts in their specific fields.
We should also recognize that no-one can be “forced” to follow you on Twitter. It is a medium online visitor will follow only if they see the value in following.
“You have a Voice” - Should You Use It?
Sometimes not everything that can be said should be said or tweeted! Some topics should simply be avoided. In South Africa, it is especially important to tread lightly and rather to avoid potentially explosive topics such as politics, race, religion, sexual orientation etc. An online brawl is not something that our partners would like to be involved in.
Example: During an Election, we may tweet a message to encourage all voters to drive, ride, cycle or walk safely to the voting stations, but will stay well clear of anything that may be viewed as political commentary.
Expect Criticism: Be Ready to wear a Crocodile Skin
Even when tweeting with the best of intentions there will be critics and criticism! When tweeting about a successful traffic enforcement roadblock there will always be those responding by criticizing corrupt officials. When tweeting on the dangers of unsafe speeds there will be those pointing out that we only focus on speed even though the Twitter timeline may include a wide variety of other road safety risks.
It is important not to be overly sensitive but rather to question whether the follower may be misinformed and whether a response is required.
We believe it is best to stay away from online arguments and to consider all the options. Options include Responding, Ignoring or even Blocking a follower with malicious intent! Responses also need not be public but can be made via direct message to the follower.
Example: We may tweet about a new vehicle release or a motor racing event and someone may question how this has anything to do with safety. It is possible to politely inform the critic that when we share the information which the “petrol heads” are interested in, it enables us, when these people follow the handle, to gain access to them and share life-saving road safety information.
Be Kind Be Sharing
When the Arrive Alive Twitter handle had less than 5,000 followers a well-known celebrity replied in a tweet that she does not know why she is following as there is so much “trauma in the tweets”.
This was an important bit of insight offered. It guided our strategy to not only share road crash reports and road safety advice but to also share some more positive stories and insights and often include a pic of the day, though for the day, inspirational message etc.
We have also found that followers love the sharing of more positive news as it happens - such as the successes of a Wayde Van Niekerk, Caster Semenya and other sports stars and achievers away from our roads! Kindness is indeed always an appropriate message!
Measure the Response
During our journey, it has been important to measure the responses to our tweets. Some messages are better received and the responses to messages offer guidance as to how other messages can be tweaked and improved for future use with greater success!
We should always recognize that no one has all the knowledge, that we are all learning through trial and error and that we may through experience become better at what we do!
As Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
We would like to extend a word of appreciation to everyone who has contributed to road safety awareness on this journey by sharing our tweets, including us in their tweets and by sharing suggestions and constructive criticism. A special word of appreciation to all our road safety partners who allow and inspire us to use all the platforms as best we can!
We will remain passionate in our vision of increasing road safety awareness among all road users and are committed to using all mediums available to us!