Last week, a 15-year-old intern, Eddie, created a viral Twitter frenzy when he managed Southern Rail's social media account.
Using the hashtag #AskEddie, he engaged with the public admirably, answering questions with wit and speed. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Southern Rail; they are frequently plagued by complaints thanks to their delays, cancellations and strikes.
This short-lived delight in Eddie's popularity just highlighted the importance of social media for PR and marketing purposes; but it shouldn't be used to distract and ignore issues if your product or service is flawed. This will rub your customers up the wrong way, creating a false impression thanks to a gap between expectation and reality.
Social media should be used to support a business, engaging with customers and users to solve issues and build a community and brand identity and presence. Ensure your product or service is stable and THEN use social media to support your strategy.
It’s another example of social media being used as a sticking plaster for a service that frequently fails to meet the expectation of its customers or employees. Social media can be a fantastic tool for engaging with customers, especially in the transport sector where they expect real-time information. Twitter is not a solution if your product or service is flawed. Any gap between expectation and reality will be called out and result in a backlash or reputational damage.