Using Social Media to Assess Your Parking Identity

Bruce Barclay

A question I ask myself from time to time is how the traveling public views the airport’s parking and shuttle service? Is it merely a means to an end or is it viewed as a valuable component to the overall airport experience? As Salt Lake Airport’s parking manager, I believe we are a valuable asset, but with only a few options to gauge customer feedback we are left with a customer service conundrum.

Guest satisfaction surveys and comments to our webmaster via email are the traditional methods for feedback, but customers don’t always care to respond in this fashion and their voice is not heard. They may share their experience with relatives and friends, but not directly with us. We wanted to be able to hear firsthand from our customers to better measure our level of service, and address the areas where we may fall short.

Last May, Salt Lake City International Airport added a public relations and marketing manager to the staff. One area of responsibility she was tasked with was developing our social media programs, which hadn’t been done due to staff constraints. She began to tweet important information regarding the availability of space in our garage, which fills up weekly, along with information regarding our upcoming terminal redevelopment project. Within a few weeks, our social media platform grew and gained momentum.

In just a few short months, our Facebook followers have grown to more than 13,000, and we have more than 2,500 followers on Twitter. Although we know those are not huge numbers, the increase over such a short time has been dramatic. Even more impressive is the fact we are now getting timely feedback from the public, especially as it relates to parking and shuttle services. The messages received have given us greater clarity on the level of service we provide on a daily basis, and allow us to share passenger experiences with employees and their supervisors. Just as importantly, we can easily respond to all social media communication—positive and negative—in an expeditious fashion. By establishing a foundation of communication with the Salt Lake community, we are quickly finding out what our identity is, and how we are perceived by the traveling public.

So…what’s your identity? Comment below.

Hashtagging Parking

Jeff Petry

Hashtags (preceding a word with the # symbol, such as #parking) were popularized by Twitter many years ago and have since found 2013-10-11 20.12.52their way into more places on the internet and social media. Sites such as Instagram, Vine, and Facebook, use hashtags to quickly link photos, videos, and comments across all of their users. It’s easy and there is no naming convention–type #parking into your search engine (or follow the link) and view the images it returns. Hashtag your organization, city, or parking program in the search box to see what your customers are saying!

So, how do you hashtag your program? It is important to understand what is out there. I use the Flipboard app on my iPad to track hashtagged words across all social media sites. If we dig deep enough, I am pretty sure most of our parking programs will come up under #parkingtickets and #parkingmeter. The trick for us is to do things that people want to hashtag in a positive light.

For example, my program, Epark Eugene, experienced some issues with customers having trouble locating multi-space meters on a busy street. We partnered with our city’s public art program to hire a local artist to paint (and protective coat) five of our meter housings. The project’s goals were to make it easier to find parking by:

  • Adding color to everyday parking objects.
  • Incorporating art that is identifiable at 25 miles an hour.
  • Including the universally-accepted “P” image.

Success is measured by increased meter use, reduced citations, and social media mentions of the new art using hashtags. See the Instagram photo in this post? It worked!
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Another project that used hashtags and social media to build positive messages around parking tapped into the current zombie craze. Downtown Eugene has a 1976 era parking garage with heavy duty steel doors that present a prison look in our stairways and have not worked in decades. Our parking supervisor painted the doors bright red and hung a sign that read, “Close Gate In Case of Zombie Outbreak.” We get nothing but smiles from this cool sign in a parking garage in downtown Eugene.

Just when we were getting used to and printing QR codes, along comes another technology tool! This one is really easy, so hastag your parking program!