Last week, San Francisco’s public transit system, the BART, experienced electrical problems that negatively impacted service. As people are wont to do, riders flocked to Twitter to complain to the agency about their poor service. What was unusual is that on the evening in question, instead of offering a bland apology or canned corporate statement, the people behind the BART Twitter account replied candidly and openly. In getting real, BART demonstrated how a faceless civic entity can leverage psychology to form relationships. Three things BART did right are:
This tweet may seem straightforward, but it reveals at least two things about the person who composed it. That person likes watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and she knows how the public generally perceives transit infrastructure. The authenticity in the statement is both charming and disarming.
Another moment of authenticity comes with a tweet expressing frustration from the other side. Not only is it hard to be a rider on an undependable rail system, it’s frustrating to work for one:
People tweeting at BART during the system problems are unhappy. They may be running late or missing plans. They are certainly inconvenienced. The BART account not only did a nice job acknowledging this in their replies and offering apologies, they also took a moment to express solidarity:
Take Advantage of a Teachable Moment
Several times over the course of the evening, the BART Twitter account took advantage of a “teachable moment” to share useful knowledge about how the transit system works. Typically, most people probably don’t carefully read or digest the messages from a public transportation social media account. In the middle of a system breakdown, however, they might pay more attention.
Good point, BART. I hadn’t thought of that.
Critically, the BART account maintained a pleasant tone throughout the exchanges, which prevented the dialogue from becoming hostile. Had the tone been defensive, then the response might not have been so positive. As it was, admiring reactions ran the gamut from one writer offering to spring for drinks for the BART social media team, to a virtual fist bump from the LA Metro.
This, folks, is how you do corporate social media.