We recently got the chance to talk with Justin Schneider and the team from findmyaccident.com (FMA). Their site serves up interactive accident reports and resources across the country. In doing so, they’re taking advantage of a host of social media techniques. Read on to learn about how the idea developed, and get a glimpse at how social media is helping them execute it to its fullest potential.
1. First, tell us how FMA got its start. What need did you see and how did the idea develop into the site’s current design?
Our operations manager recognized a need for a centralized resource for accident news online. The strength of the Web is specialization and traditional media outlets were bringing the public accident news alongside politics, sports and weather reports. As the Find My Accident team took shape, we saw the value in making accident news and accident prevention our mission. The design was meant to be simple and straightforward. We knew from the start that we wanted a map interface that used icons and was largely self-explanatory. The other component was a simple archive of accident reports.
2. Please explain the status bar. How does an incident go from “accident” to “legal”?
The status bar represents the stages of an accident. First the accident happens, then it’s reported on our site, and finally it moves into the courts. When the victim retains a lawyer or the case moves into a criminal proceeding, the status bar moves to “legal.”
3. How big of a part does social media play in FMA’s strategy? How have you integrated key sites like Facebook into the experience?
Social media has the potential to make a huge impact for Find My Accident. Right now, we’re sharing all of our reports on Twitter, which has proven especially valuable since Google began indexing Twitter. Meanwhile, Bing is indexing Facebook in a similar way. We have a presence on Facebook, but we’re exploring how to optimize it as a resource. Since we report on accidents in all 50 states, we’re considering whether it’s more valuable to have 50 Facebook accounts or just one. Social media is also a two-way street. We’ve gleaned information from Facebook and Twitter that helps shape our accident reports and we often connect a report with a relevant Facebook page.
4. It can be confusing trying to understand how sites dealing with social media make their money. What kind of monetization techniques are being used for FMA?
What social networking does for us now is bring exposure to our brand. With more than 500 million Facebook users and an estimated 100 million Twitter users, these services connect our mission with active, tech-savvy people who want our content. It’s not so much about monetization, but about building our reputation. Given the ubiquitous nature of traffic accidents, we believe that if we create a useful site, the money part will take care of itself.
5. Do you see this integrating with existing traffic reports/radio on a local level? what is the thought to bringing online/offline integration?
I think Find My Accident will evolve in the way our users demand. One of our great strengths is that we have room to grow in several different directions. We’re not ruling out the possibility of any partnerships at this point. We’re committed to our core mission and our decisions will be based on how best to serve our audience.
6. Any plans for a mobile app?
A smart phone application is certainly on our priority list. Our analytics show users already access Find My Accident via mobile devices and that’s an audience we want to cultivate. As mobile technology improves, the demand for optimization will only grow. For a site so focused on transportation, the mobile side is vital. We want our users to have the ability to share with us when they’re on the road.
7. How far along is FMA’s growth, and what is your vision for its future expansion?
Find My Accident is in its embryonic stage. We have a business model that works and we’re starting to flesh out the site with content that visitors find useful. But that’s just a foundation. Moving forward, we will respond to the needs of our users and the public, and expand our content further to make Find My Accident the resource we believe it can be.
Take a look at some full reports:
West Hollywood, California
San Jose, California
Hendrick’s County, Indiana