My morning scan of Twitter for news made it very apparent that something ScotRail related was kicking off – the news that FirstGroup (remember when company names had a space in them?!?) had lost the franchise to the Dutch firm ‘Abellio’ was rapidly doing the rounds, so much so that ‘Scotrail’ is a current worldwide Twitter trend. Why so much buzz around this? Well, under FirstGroup, ScotRail hasn’t had the best of times in terms of service.

In fact, ScotRail has been the subject of massive levels of negative tweets over the years, many along the lines of these…

ScotRail has the dubious honour of having its own negative hashtag – #ScotFail, which has been used over the years to barrage the company with serious abuse. I do feel sorry for the people running their Twitter, who in recent times, have been doing a good job in difficult conditions – dealing with anything that is subject to delays and manifests in such a real-time fashion isn’t easy, that coupled with the massive sway towards negative sentiment around the brand makes it a thankless task.

Scotrail were slow out of the Twitter station

ScotRail established their Twitter account in July 2009, but didn’t send a tweet until November 16th 2010. While they lay silent, the #ScotFail tag was booming and people were tweeting the account, with no response. ScotRail had no ability to respond to the huge negativity surrounding them. They did start to offer service announcements in Nov 2010 – this was a crazy winter in Scotland (and across the UK) and train services were massively effected (I know first-hand as was commuting on ScotRail at the time). It was almost as if their hand was forced.

Since then they have been doing a solid job, but the fact of the matter is, the train service isn’t great, and when you’re affecting people’s lives in such a direct way, it’s never going to be an easy social media ride. That doesn’t mean to say that companies, brands etc that are under constant social media duress should wave the white flag and give up, in fact, I think they should be trying even harder to use social to serve people and attempt to change perceptions. Having said that, if they can’t fix their product or service first, then they’ve little hope.

The buzz is over-and-above people looking forward to change

Many people are bemoaning the fact that a company from overseas will be taking over the service…

These points are not for me to comment on, as quite frankly, I’m not informed enough to. I am fascinated by the use of Twitter by people looking to make their point around politics and government decisions, it’s such an important tool in today’s rhetoric and that’s why I believe Twitter will outlive the other key social platforms. Twitter’s ability to spread news and opinion is unparalleled, despite Zuckerberg and co’s attempts to shift Facebook towards a news platform.

What now for the ScotRail account?

I would assume that it would be transferred to the new operators, as it is ScotRail’s property as opposed to FirstGroup’s. There may be a case for stating fresh, but that would just be a nuisance for current followers. I guess the best thing Abellio can do is provide a brilliant train service, then the ScotRail twitter account will be all butterflies and pink clouds. Aye right. Thanks to @neilinglis for raising the point re ownership of the account.

How’s your experience of ScotRail on Twitter been over the years? 

Read news re FirstGroup losing the Scotrail franchise.

Train image via scotrail.co.uk

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