DC Metro: How Not to Use Twitter

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on August 21, 2009

Twitter and Washington, D.C.’s Metro transit system would seem to be made for each other. Metro customers need real-time status information, especially given the system’s recent bout of large and small service outages. And for anyone with a smartphone, Twitter is simpler and cheaper than the text message alert system Metro has offered from some time.

Unfortunately, Metro’s has turned its Twitter status reports into a joke. The information Metro is sending out through the Twitter API is more often than not gibberish. Consider this sadly typical Tweet, sent out twice, 23 minutes apart: “No Line: Due to a power outage, all of the station’s entrance escalators are out of service. The elevator is operational. The station remain” Not knowing which of Metro’s 86 stations was affected, or even what line it was on, rendered the the “information” useless.

Message to any business of government service considering automated tweets:
It’s a great way to disseminate information quickly and broadly, but take the time to do it right or you will end up a laughingstock.

UPDATE: A reader pointed out that I neglected to link to Metro;s Twitter account. It’s @metroopensdoors.

Reader Comments

Gabe

August 21, 2009 8:02 PM

Where is the link to that Twitter account?

SockYee

August 21, 2009 8:42 PM

That's why I believe doing pre-commissioning and doing a mock trial run before going into full launch is always worth the effort. Never mind about the delay because eventually what matters most later part is usually the first impression on people's mind when start using it.

SockYee

Steve Wildstrom

August 21, 2009 8:47 PM

@Gabe==Oops, my bad. www.twitter.com/metroopensdoors.

Sam

August 22, 2009 6:29 PM

Unbelievable! what a great opportunity to provide some genuine customer service spolied...

Jules - Jules Management

September 14, 2009 2:35 PM

Many of my clients are surprised how deceptively simple Twitter can be. I agree with Sock Yee, start with a trial run and a strategy for its corporate use before jumping into it. Follow my tweets -@julesmgmt

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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