Twitter As A Public Service

So I first thought of this idea when my AC Transit bus stop was moved to a different location for a night to accommodate one of President Barack Obama’s recent campaign fund raising events in Oakland. Being Oakland and all, someone had tore up the signs meant to direct transit riders to the correct spot to wait for the bus.

I was slightly confused, but navigated to the AC Transit website and sorted things out. But imagine if I could have gone to Twitter to find a post on the top of my stream from AC Transit warning me about all the temporary changes. Saves typing, which studies smartphone users hate doing.

The same issue has come up the last two evening rush-hour periods when BART trains had to be taken out of service, causing a systemwide delay heading eastbound. The platforms in downtown ended up getting very crowded.

Google Now is aiming to fix situations like this by using its brain to be your personal assistant, but that’s not going to sit well with everyone just yet.

Instead, transit agencies and pretty much all other public agencies should be taking advantage of Twitter’s Promoted Tweets product during special events. Twitter should guarantee public agencies positioning above and over private companies during these special events. The well-known problem with Twitter is that it moves so fast, stuff gets easily lost downstream. Promoted Tweets protect against that inherent service problem.

The thorny question is whether or not Twitter to promote itself as a public service should allow public agencies to take advantage of the Promoted Tweets offering for free. While it would stand to lose some regular revenues, it could gain goodwill with the public and potentially some users who would now see a practical application for Twitter.


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