‘When I Ride the Bus’
‘When I Ride the Bus’
WENATCHEE — Bus riders can read, snooze, chit-chat, work on laptops and — if you take a hint from Link Transit’s new video — burst into song for a rollicking production number.
“It’s kind of fun, isn’t it?” said Eric West, Link’s marketing coordinator. “Sure, it’s all staged, but we’re hoping the video gives people a fresh view about who rides the bus and why.”
The three-minute video — titled “When I Ride the Bus” — is part of Link’s ongoing test of direct-to-customer marketing that includes targeted mailings, email newsletters and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The effort is an attempt to use new technologies to reach “the people that matter,” said West. “And that can be people who live on a specific route, or who are waiting at a bus stop or — as in the case of this video — who might be wondering what riding the bus is all about. There are a lot of those people in the Wenatchee Valley.”
The $12,000 production depicts a multi-age, multi-cultural busload of folks who’ve turned their daily bus ride into a friendly community that encourages Joe, the video’s hero, to follow his dreams. They do this by singing a catchy tune that, say the lyrics, allow folks to relax, read or ruminate over big ideas.
Link has posted on YouTube a handful of how-to videos on topics such as using a bus bike rack or charging up an electric trolley. “But ‘When I Ride the Bus’ is the first fun, feel good video we’ve done,” said West. “We’re hoping it has wide appeal.”
Posted online two weeks ago, the video has drawn more than 2,600 views and positive mentions in national transit newsletters such as Transit Intelligence and Transportation Communications.
“OK, it hasn’t gone viral. We haven’t gotten millions of hits,” said West. “But it’s notable that we’ve been mentioned in the industry journals. (The video) is part of the huge trend to use digital technologies to encourage ridership.”
West said Link generally targets loyal and potential riders with a two-pronged marketing approach: 1) keeping up awareness of the transit system, and 2) making the system work best for the most people.
This year, transit marketing has included a series of direct-mail postcards to Cashmere residents promoting a new bus route between Cashmere and downtown Wenatchee. Those postcards included coupons for free rides and QR codes to direct residents to more info about the route.
Link’s online marketing also includes frequent Facebook posts, Twitter messages on route details and delays and a new link to Transit, a Google Maps application that provides directions, distances, travel times and bus fares between almost any two locations.
Link will spend about $130,000 on marketing this year, said West, which is slightly more than 1 percent of its $11 million annual budget. That total covers print and radio advertising, direct mail marketing and any social media costs (not including salaries).
In the end, the marketing goal is to increase use of the Link system. But has it?
Link ended 2012 with ridership at 861,913 and is cruising this year, said West, at about 2 percent higher. If the increase holds through December, Link will end the year with a projected ridership of around 870,000.
Problem is, said West, total numbers are hard to predict because many factors can affect ridership, including the weather, gas prices and the economic ups and downs of a person or family. An event like last autumn’s wildfires and the resulting smoke (ridership increased) or this autumn’s government shutdown (effects uncertain) can have ripple effects, he said, that influence how people live and how and when they commute or travel.
The upside to marketing through digital technologies and social media is that they provide accurate tracking of viewers and customers, said West. The downside is that those same technologies evolve quickly. “As fast as we learn Facebook, another technology — say, Instagram — could grow to take its place. We’re on a constant, steep learning curve to keep up.”
But right now, he smiled, there’s a lot of buzz over the new Link video. “Whether that chatter translates into ridership remains to be seen,” West said. “We’ll ride this thing as long as we can.”