The secret life of the DOTS tweeter

For most adults, spending the work day on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook is a workplace faux pas. Unless, of course, it’s their job.

For the Department of Transportation Services’ administrative assistant Valerie Goubeau, who has been the elusive personality behind the DOTS Twitter account since 2010, tweeting is all in a day’s work. As part of her administrative position, she responds to feedback from students and tweets important information and reminders.

“We need creative people to run it, and she’s definitely a creative lady,” DOTS Director David Allen said.

Since 2009, DOTS has been tweeting information about parking and bus routes, as well as changes to traffic patterns and fun facts about campus transportation, all in 140 characters or less. Occasionally, Goubeau will tweet trivia questions about DOTS, and followers who respond can win prizes, such as free parking.

“It’s absolutely an important tool for us to have,” said Goubeau. “Some students just don’t read the emails we send out, and it takes almost no effort to read a tweet.”

But not all of Goubeau’s tweets are just reminders. Sometimes she tweets factoids — such as DOTS having had more than 2 million riders this year, about as many as Latvia’s population — for entertainment.

Sophomore Spanish major Katie-Rose Nave, who is one of DOTS’ nearly 550 followers on the micro-blogging website, said the department’s Twitter helps her stay updated and ensure she doesn’t get bombarded with parking tickets.

“I’m a DOTS registrant, and I prefer to get updates from them on Twitter rather than get burned out of ignorance,” she said. “They’re also prompt in response on Twitter.”

Managing the account, however, isn’t always easy. It’s no secret most students aren’t the biggest fans of DOTS — and often, the feedback is negative.

“Some people seem to be really invested in having conversations with us over Twitter, but won’t talk to us directly,” Goubeau said.

“We try to respond to anything that seems like a legitimate question or issue,” Allen added.

William Evans, a sophomore neurobiology and physiology and Spanish major, uses Twitter to let DOTS know exactly how he feels. Under the moniker @rockpapersizzrs, he gives DOTS feedback on everything from NITE Ride’s inconsistent service to his disappointment in the destinations of Shuttle-UM routes with the hashtag #downwithdots.

“I follow them because I want to see the lies they’re spewing on social media,” he said.

Despite the sometimes-vicious comments, Goubeau sees the Twitter account as a way to keep both critics and supporters informed.

“Sometimes there are misconceptions about our service and, perhaps from a professional or administrative standpoint, might be taken for granted, but students might not understand,” Goubeau said. “I just address it with information to clear it up.”

— Laura Blasey, Staff writer

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