The UK’s rail system has got to be one of the most-complained about services on social media.

With delays and cancellations, here there and everywhere – Twitter is usually a firestorm of negativity.

So, how does a company that sells tickets on its behalf create a positive reputation?

I recently heard Nicole New, Social Media Manager at Trainline.com, speak about this topic at an event hosted by We Are Social.

Here’s a summary of what she said.

Using social media as an enabler

For Trainline, the biggest challenge it faces on social media is cutting through the noise of people complaining about poor service – and creating a separate identity for the brand in its own right.

On platforms like Twitter in particular, it can be hard to strike the right balance between customer service and brand promotion.

However, Trainline avoids blatant sales speak or merely shouting into the Twitter abyss about great prices.

Instead, it strives to become part of the conversations and trends already happening online, aiming to answer questions and concerns of customers in real-time, but to also offer a friendly and fun voice on seasonal, topical or timely topics.

By positioning itself in this way, it is able to ensure it is the first brand that comes to mind when consumers need a train ticket.

Relate, don’t dictate

'Relate, don’t dictate' is a nice little slogan used by Nicole – and a great tip for anyone working in social media.

Essentially, it means using platforms in such a way so that natural user behaviour is not disrupted.

Again, this is done by being active in the spaces in which target consumers are present. But more than this, it is about honing in on the things that are the most relevant to them. 

For Trainline, this doesn’t always mean talking about the most obvious subjects.

Nicole explained how one of Trainline’s most popular posts on Facebook for engagement was a post about University reading week.

While it’s not specifically to do with train tickets, the brand found that it was a highly relatable topic for the platform’s core demographic.

The article tapped into the natural conversation that was occurring on Facebook from students talking about going home for reading week, perfectly aligning with their current interests and budgets. 

Connecting through shared experiences

Nicole also spoke about how Trainline uses the above tactic to encourage users to talk to each other as well as the brand.

By creating conversation around a popular and shared experience, such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for example, users are more likely to feel like Trainline enables their own activity on social media.

Instead of being an overbearing brand trying to sell them something, it is a seamless part of the experience.

Celebrating the customer

Lastly, Trainline’s customer-centric approach extends to how it responds to online feedback.

While negative comments are par for the course, Nicole explained how positive mentions from consumers are truly celebrated.

One way Trainline does this is to create personalised videos for users who mention the company in a positive light.

By letting them know that the brand likes them back, Trainline is able to create a truly memorable moment for a customer, fostering a sense of loyalty and strengthening the cycle of positivity. 

Now read:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 25 November, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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