went into the control room for our train and bus operations at
04.00, sat in the corner with the laptop open and posted constant
service updates from the information I was being fed," he said. "At
09.00, 1 closed the laptop and carried on with my everyday
activities. It was simple to do and did not take up a huge amount of
resources. And in the immediate aftermath I received a lot of
comments from people saying that the information provided was the
most comprehensive and best they had ever received on the status of
our services during bad weather."
The ability to post a constant stream of instant service updates to passengers is the major attraction of social media. Like Translink, operators have found it particularly useful during service interruptions, and often experience a spike in followers during these events.
Mr Claudio Cassarino, managing director of Metro Service, the operator of the Copenhagen Metro, which is not yet using social media, says that surveys have identified passenger information as an element of its service that could be improved, with 70% of its passengers saying that receiving up-todate and accurate journey information is the most important thing to them while they are travelling. "Social media appears to be the logical way to address this," he said.
Providing accurate, consistent and quality information are all critical elements of a social media strategy, and one of the major challenges to using it as a communications platform. Rogan says a feed has to remain active and live. However, he says passengers do understand that they may not get an immediate response to their query outside office hours or at the weekend as long as an operator is clear from the beginning when the feed is staffed.
Paris Transport Authority (RATP), which began using a corporate Twitter feed in 2011, took a more pragmatic approach to using social media for public information. It launched four Twitter feeds for its services in September 2012 following a long and extensive development process. This has since grown to 15 separate feeds for individual metro, tram and RER lines, with each now boasting between 700 and 4400 followers.
Mr Dominique de Ternay, head of marketing at RATP, said the reason for this approach was a desire to build a database of quality information on its own website which RATP and the public could access to answer any possible query. "This enables us to very quickly answer questions with attractive content," he says.
In contrast, as an early starter with social media, Transport for London (TfL) took a step-by-step approach, allowing gradual growth as it, and its passengers, learnt how to use the different mediums most effectively.
Mr Steve Gumbrell, TfL's head of marketing strategy and business management, says steadily ramping up its presence helped to avoid a "bij bang" in costs.
Gumbrell says Twitter is the focus of TfL's social media strategy and in 15 months it has gone from nothing to having dedicated Twitter leeds for each London Underground line as well as Overground services, a feed for the Oyster smartcard, a genera I TfL news feed, and feeds for bus ami road traffic updates.
Mr Brian Dobson, TfL's online governance and planning manager, says the benefits of social media were felt during the London
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