By Kristen Roderick
The Hutchinson News
RENO COUNTY, Kan. — If someone would have told Gary Warner six months ago that he would connect with a growing social media audience, he wouldn't believe it.
He's a Twitter novice and considers himself part of the "older generation," where social media isn't a pastime.
That was before he and other Kansas Highway Patrol troopers realized the potential of sending out information quickly through Twitter.
In an age where the world is hungry for instant information, the KHP formed the Tweeting Troopers as a way to share traffic warnings and tips to a larger audience.
"That's going to be the most effective use of the tool for us," said Warner, KHP public resource officer for the south-central division.
Ben Gardner, public resource officer for the north-central division, was already on Twitter before a meeting in January, where troopers decided to get online.
They spoke of the effectiveness of social media on pushing out traffic safety information. It was a time when winter storms were about to move into the area and they could use Twitter to let the public know of any hazards on the roads.
On the first weekend of March, troopers used Twitter to let Reno County drivers know of the slick roads around the county, including a fatality accident near Nickerson. By the first weekend of April, troopers gave followers an inside look of a shift with a "Tweet Along," which is like a ride-along on Twitter.
Warner was amazed at how fast the tweets have taken off.
"It's not uncommon to have 50 to 70,000 view a tweet that literally took a few minutes to create," he said. "Very few things we do in that short of time has the potential of reaching that many people."
He has monitored local news organizations, which will rehash information almost as soon as it is released by troopers.
"When we send out information about road conditions or reminders to use headlights, quite often they mention it right away as well as retweet, furthering the spread," he said.
In four months, Warner, known on Twitter as @TrooperGary, has gotten more than 2,000 followers and his numbers continue to grow.
Work In Progress
Troopers can be funny on Twitter. They have even used a goat to demonstrate drunken drivers.
Warner, who uploaded a photo on Twitter of rain in Hutchinson on March 26, admits he's still learning. But he's learning by watching others and from experience.
"We're still exploring," he said. "Other agencies have been engaged in it longer than we have and have seen some very positive things come from it — just the spread of information."
He can't wait to see where the Tweeting Troopers go and how social media will help spread the word of weather conditions, traffic law information and more.
And he's definitely not straying away from continuously learning.
"This old dog is not opposed to learning new tricks," he said.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2014 The Hutchinson News