Irish Rail: Twitter, social networking and keeping commuters updated
Following on from our article on Wednesday we talked to Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny about Twitter, user criticisms, and the company’s plans for their social networking future.
We began by asking why there were so few tweets from @irishrail during this and other delays.
“When such delays occur, it can be difficult to estimate at the start the extent of delay, and we do try to have as full information as possible when tweeting…essentially the situation had not changed at all from our first message for a considerable time. On review, we should have been explicit about the implications of the signal fault – it is easy but incorrect to assume that people are aware that it means no train can move, in either direction – signalling regulates the safe movement of trains.”
We asked Irish Rail why they responded to questions or comments via direct messages rather than publicly on their Twitter account.
“The reason we DM replies is that we are aware that some people may not be active on twitter or have an account, but may check our twitter page nonetheless through their web browser. We feel it’s better that they see a stream of information relating directly to services, rather than having to go through replies to get to what they need. Queries via twitter seeking replies can seek quite specific detail at times, which will not necessarily be of use to a wider audience.”
According to Kenny the company has seen the benefits for itself and is customers of the social web and has plans to expand the its social media portfolio in the future.
“We do recognise the importance of social media as one of the tools with which we communicate with customers. During the snow of November / December, we were able to temporarily deploy additional staff resources to maximise our activity on social media, and it proved extremely useful for our customers and for us. We are currently working to expand our social media activity on an ongoing basis, and our customers will see the benefit of that in the near future.”
He goes on to explain,
We generally want to become more active, engage more, and provide more varied and useful information using different media. We’re looking at whether things like audioboo or short video clip files could help in certain situations (e.g. for a delay like last night, a short pre-prepared video clip explaining signalling issues might be of use). There’s a danger for companies to say “there’s a new technology, let’s use it” just because it exists – we are looking at these different options to see if they can bring genuine benefit to our customers, and of course it all has to be done on a near-zero budget.