Social Media Strategy at VIA Rail - 2012, including ROI calculation and crisis communications


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An up-to-date version of the presentation, given by me at MARCOM 2012.

This presentation includes information about our social media strategy, how to build your own strategy, as well as how to calculate social media ROI and prepare for various real-world or social media crises.

The audio from this presentation will also be available at after the presentation.

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  • (ie. Train 75&76 being buses, then back to trains; starting with the general contact number, then switching to the special contact number). These messages spread, and others visit the Twitter feed directly to look for the information that pertains to them. Even though specific information is not being broadcast, it is being seen. For future events, creating and using a hashtag for all messages concerning the emergency would help control and spread the information.
  • 268 negative messages about our brand. This includes any mentions or retweets against VIA to @JannArden, or comments about the situation against VIA Rail when retweeting media mentions with negative titles or messages. 47 negative mentions about our pet policy. Majority of these mentions either question the existence of the policy, compare it to other domestic or international operators, or state that the policy must be changed.
  • Include social media in all functional areas – that way, everyone will know the rules and expectations when a crisis happens Build relationships on trust, service and security. Nurture relationships with your brand advocates – they will be your “3 rd party voice” in times of crisis Must be adaptive. How do you give up control without losing the brand in the process? If you’re firmly rooted, you can better understand when and how to give up control. Work to contain your negative groundswell using proper crisis planning and responding quickly, proactively in the forum in which the concerns are raised.
  • As VIA continues to develop our social media crisis communication strategy, we have focused on these 8 strategies when developing our policies, procedures and training. Observations from industry experts have demonstrated how using (or, how not using) each of these strategies can contribute to successful post-crisis communications, and therefore allow you to protect your brand ’s reputation.
  • - First modern-day press release issued due to train accident. Tools in the railway industry have advanced beyond the need and use of a press release. Customers search for information in real time, and expect the company to communicate with them during times of crisis, in person and online.
  • Point 1: If the crisis manifests on a blog, use your blog to respond. If Employees post a malicious video, have the president or CEO post a video, too. Ex. Dominos employees do disgusting things to food, and put it on YouTube: The president and CEO responds with his own video: http:// =dem6eA7-A2I
  • Point 2: If you find the issues are manifesting on Twitter and Facebook, post a response on all networks, including video. Increases your chance of visibility JetBlue answered all posts, just saying that they weren ’t commenting. They wanted to respect the privacy of the employee, since there were criminal charges being pressed for activating the emergency system on the tarmac. That didn’t stop JetBlue from joining the conversation anywhere it was taking place.
  • Point 3: Be proactive – put out the information before others provide misinformation. Become the hub of information – people are looking for information, so you should put it out first
  • Point 4: Olivier Blanchard: ( “The Brandbuilder”): “ Make a point to welcome the comments. Invite them .  Keep it up. ” Ask for advice and suggestions. As per VIA example – solicit information from customers on-board: they can see the truck, but in emergency operations centre, we can’t.
  • Point 5: Allow the people that were there during the good times to have their say. Create and foster a community of brand advocates – keep close tabs on your critics, too. David Spark
  • Point 7: Not every problem can be solved by your company or the way the community wants you to solve it. Sometimes, things are just out of your control. Bill of Rights instituted after Feb 2007 tarmac grounding
  • BP was an example of a PR disaster – no amount of social media work could mitigate the comments of the CEO to the press.
  • Social Media Strategy at VIA Rail - 2012, including ROI calculation and crisis communications

    1. 1. A Tale of Two Crises - May 15, 2012Social Media Strategy at VIA Rail
    2. 2. What we’ll cover today• Establishing your social media strategy »Creating a governance structure »Training and tools »How to engage »Setting up your social media policy »Tracking and measuring your results• Crisis communications »Examples from VIA Rail »Strategies and tactics »Examples from other leading organizationsThis presentation is also available at 2
    3. 3. About VIA Rail• An independent Crown Corporation established in 1977, VIA Rail Canada operates the national passenger rail service on behalf of the Government of Canada.• Operates up to 497 trains weekly on 12,500 kilometres of track, and serves 450 communities across the country, from coast to coast and north to Hudson Bay.• VIA carried over 4 million passengers in 2010.• Infrastructure includes: –396 passenger cars; –78 active locomotives; –159 railway stations; –4 modern maintenance facilities,• VIA employs some 3,000 people.• 2010 operating deficit of over 260 million dollars.• Since 2007, VIA has received $923 million – the biggest capital investment in VIA Rail’s history.• Changes to trains, tracks and stations – the renaissance of passenger rail service in Canada. 3
    4. 4. Social Media Strategy at VIA RailHow to setup your social mediastrategy:• Design a governance structure• Train employees• Engage• Measure 4
    5. 5. The Early Days• Twitter used to push sales, travel info and company news.• Facebook presence through a personal profile (before corporate pages).• No engagement, monitoring or response. 5
    6. 6. The Start of Something Special 6
    7. 7. Learning the Basics 7
    8. 8. Training Regimen• Editorial Committee » Refresh existing content » Create an editorial calendar• Champions Committee » Tone and manner » Response evaluation workflow » Social Media Monitoring and Response tool 8
    9. 9. Tools of the Trade• Freemium (free or inexpensive) » HootSuite (Premium account includes team collaboration features) » Tweet Reports » Tweet Reach » Native web clients for each network• Premium » Sysomos » Radian6 Start with the free services and manual searches to familiarize yourself with social media and the interface your stakeholders will use. 9
    10. 10. The Nitty Gritty• Monitoring and Responding• Community Manager engages on a day-to-day basis• If needed, agency can provide support outside of business hours• Manage your customers’ expectations OR 10
    11. 11. The New Policy on the BlockThe Social Media Policy• Manage personal and professional social media activity• Encourage the use of social media by setting rules and guidelines• Restrict access to corporate accounts• For reference, database of policies available at, including VIA’s policy 11
    12. 12. How Do You Measure Success?Basic Measurement• How many mentions per day?• Are they positive, negative, or neutral?• What are the trends?Campaign Measurement• Decide on the purpose• Establish benchmarks• Compare results 12
    13. 13. A Case Study in Social Media Measurement • Social Media Week (SMW) is an international conference that took place across 12 cities worldwide between February 13th and 17th, 2012. • SMW allows anyone (businesses or individuals) to organize and host an event related to social media and provides assistance with planning and promoting. • VIA wanted to: – engage with and learn from social media influencers while sharing our own strategy – hear from the new generation of industry thought leaders, and; – create a business case for the value of social media, including benchmarks to measure future campaigns against. • Three major activities: – Social Media Week Toronto train between Montreal and Toronto, via Ottawa; – “Social Media R.O.I.: Myth or Reality?” event, hosted by VIA Rail with the Fairmont Royal York Hotel; – Sponsorship of Social Media Week Toronto, in-kind contribution to bring speakers and media to Toronto. 13
    14. 14. What’s the R.O.I.?What’s the R.O.I. on Blogging?• VIA hosted an group of 13 bloggers and social media influencers (from Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawaand Kingston) on a private train car between Montreal and Toronto•VIA used a unique hashtag on Twitter (#SMWTOroi) to track the conversation with the invitedinfluencers before the Toronto event started: ▪ 169 messages (100 broadcast tweets, 36 @ replies, 33 retweets); ▪ 1 million impressions; ▪ 214,000 people reached.• Traditional media value of 1M impressions: $7,500-$15,000• Traditional production value for print, radio and TV: $5,000-$200,000• There was no out-of-pocket cost to VIA Rail 14
    15. 15. What’s the R.O.I.?What’s the R.O.I. on Event Tweeting?• The hashtag (#SMWTOroi) was used for the event “Social Media ROI: Myth or Reality?”, hosted by VIAand the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto. The hashtag generated the following results during andfollowing the event:  1,402 messages (575 broadcast tweets, 549 @ replies and 278 retweets);  6.5 million impressions;  506,000 people reached.• Traditional media value of 6.5 million impressions: $50,000-$100,000• Traditional production value for print, radio and TV : $5,000-$200,000• Event cost to VIA: $11,000• Incremental event tweeting cost to VIA: $0• On the day of the event (February 13th, 2012), the hashtag made the trending topics for Toronto andMontreal, then for all of Canada, and finally the worldwide trending topics. This means that, across theworld, #SMWTOroi was one of the most talked about topics on Twitter. 15
    16. 16. What’s the R.O.I.?What’s the R.O.I. from the overall festival sponsorship andparticipation?• Total results for the hashtag #SMWTOroi  1,571 messages (675 broadcast tweets, 585 @ replies and 311 retweets);  7.5 million impressions;  506,000 people reached.• Traditional media value of 7.5 million impressions: $57,500-$115,000• Traditional production value for print, radio and TV : $5,000-$200,000• Total cost of participation to VIA: $11,000• VIA had the highest had the highest impressions for theduration of the festival, tripling that of other sponsorship reach.• In addition, VIA was the top ranked festival sponsor fornumber of engagements. This meant that VIA had the highestover-all festival digital experience. 16
    17. 17. The Framework• Create a governance structure• Consider a consultant or agency for additional assistance• Evaluate your internal resources• Create the necessary working committees• Train for social media basics and implementation• Develop a set of internal rules or policies, including a Social Media Policy and a crisis communications plan• Measure and analyze your activity 17
    18. 18. What’s Next? Becoming a “Social Organization” Internalize informal feedback – Using social data collected from our fans and followers to create an internal “feedback loop”, executing product and service changes. Procure an advanced social media management tool – Increasing our ability to monitor, measure and report. Establish our crisis management policies and procedures. Create an executive blog – VIA executives share their views on the company, our products and services, and the travel and tourism industry.• Employee engagement and empowerment – Basic social media training to advance the knowledge of all employees, demonstrating how they can use social media personally and professionally.• Crowdsourcing – Asking for suggestions from our community members, using open-ended questions.• Trendspotting – Looking for opportunities and threats using the social data VIA collects daily.• Network expansions – Strategies for and increased use of Foursquare, YouTube and Google Plus.• Create an external wiki and internal social network.• Tweetups – Organized meetups with our online communities. 18
    19. 19. VIA Rail’s 2012 Case Studiesand other examples of crisis management 19
    20. 20. Crisis ManagementSafety and Emergency Response at VIA Rail• VIA is a recognized leader in safety – therefore, VIA is always actively looking to improve safety and emergency response procedures communications.• The use of social media has spread across the company. Now, social media is also a requirement for emergency response.• Along with social media emergency response procedures, post-crisis communication strategies are always top of mind at VIA. 20
    21. 21. The derailment - Start 21
    22. 22. Middle 22
    23. 23. Middle 23
    24. 24. Lessons from the derailmentBetween February 26th and March 6th, we monitored 4,878 mentions or messageson Twitter about the derailment. In that same time, we sent out 154 messages, 90of which were sent on the 26th proper. Our level of response on Facebook wassimilar. A blog post was published on March 1st at that went well: » Quick responses, even when we didn’t have all of the information » Personalized responses when possible. » Sign-off message at the end of the day let customers know that we were no longer monitoring, and provided them with alternate methods of contacting us. 24
    25. 25. Lessons from Jann ArdenBetween March 11th and March 15th, we monitored 1,476 mentions or messages on Twitterabout VIA Rail, Jann Arden and the pet policy. In that same time, we sent out 17 messagesabout the incident, only 4 of which were sent on the 11th proper. A blog post was publishedon April 5th at (after full policy review). » March 11: 345 negative, 244 neutral, 28 positive » March 12-13: 171 negative, 481 neutral, 171 positiveNegatives include any mentions or retweets against VIA to @JannArden, or comments about the situationagainst VIA Rail when retweeting media mentions with negative titles or messages.Things that went well: » Immediate response to Jann Arden. Provided information about the policy, committed to reviewing it immediately. » Again, personalized responses during the week regarding our policy. » The existing community stepped up, supporting the brand, even if they didn’t agree with the policy itself. 25
    26. 26. Prepare For a Crisis Before It Happens• Ensure that you have the right training, policies, work processes and procedures• Include social media in all areas of communication across the organization• Nurture relationships with your brand advocates• Build up trust with the community before you need it• Be adaptive and flexible 26
    27. 27. Post-Crisis Communication is KeyEstablish a communication strategy for real-world and online crises.• Always provide an equal and proportionate response.• Don’t rely on just one platform.• Be proactive with your approach.• Don’t over-moderate the comments.• Rely on your advocates.• Act fast.• Be clear about your limitations.• Not all crises can be solved using social media.Based on research from 27
    28. 28. The History of the Press Release Atlantic City train accident – October 30th, 1906. Ivy Lee puts out a press release, printed verbatim by the New York Times 28
    29. 29. Post-Crisis StrategiesAlways provide an equal and proportionate responseExample:Domino’s employees do disgusting things to food, and upload the videos to YouTube.The president of Domino’s responds using his own video. According to Trendspotting, itwas the use of the “unconventional media channels […], the same channels in which thecrisis found its way” to the public that allowed Domino’s to control the crisis and repairtheir brand image.From 29
    30. 30. Post-Crisis StrategiesDon’t rely on just one platformExample:JetBlue employee quits by yelling over the public address system, then jumping out of theplane using the emergency slide while still on the tarmac in August 2010.JetBlue posts a blog in response (“Sometimes, the weird news is about us”), and answersall questions on Twitter and Facebook.Marty St. George, SVP of Marketing at JetBlue, explains the approach: “It wasn’t just achannel choice. That’s where our customers are. Our customers are younger, they’remore affluent and they’re significantly more active in the digital space and we want to bewhere the customers are.”From 30
    31. 31. Post-Crisis StrategiesBe proactive with your approachExample:In early 2010, Toyota recalled a number of vehicles due to anissue with the accelerator pedal.Social Media in a Crisis: Toyota Case Study from theUniversity of Strathclyde, Scotland:“Toyota created a micro-site for recall information, whichincluded sharing features and a corporate blog RSS feed. Thesite also included a live update counter to emphasize thespeed at which it was fixing the pedals. All social mediachannels directed customers to the micro-site page. Thisallowed Toyota to review the information and act accordingly.”From Section 3.1.2 Post Recall Social Media Strategy 31
    32. 32. Post-Crisis StrategiesDon’t over-moderate the commentsExample:Nestlé’s Facebook page was the target of “socialwarfare” from Greenpeace in March of 2010.According to a case study by Olivier Blanchard ofBrand Builder Marketing and blog:“Nestle’s Facebook team responds to criticism ontheir wall by threatening to delete comments left byindividuals using modified versions of theircorporate logo as avatars, which only adds fuel tothe fire.”“Make a point to welcome the comments. Invitethem. Keep it up.”From and 32
    33. 33. Post-Crisis StrategiesRely on your advocatesExample:Advocates frequent your socialmedia properties regularly,without the pull of new content.For VIA, our advocates (N. andS. in this example) will monitorand respond on our behalf on avariety of issues.David Spark:“Allow the people that were thereduring the good times to havetheir say. Create and foster acommunity of brand advocates.”From 33
    34. 34. Post-Crisis StrategiesAct FastExample: Plan your social media strategy, policies and procedures around quick response time and the dissemination of information internally:- VIA has an internal policy to respond to questions and comments within 24 hours; usually much sooner.- Social Media Champions (Subject Matter Experts) are a team of 11 tasked with monitoring and responding online, managed by a dedicated Community Manager.- Community Manager meets with Social Media Champions bi-weekly to ensure procedures are up-to-date and trends, opportunities and threats are being identified.- Daily distribution of social media activity reports to senior management keeps the organization informed.David Spark: “Be ready to respond as soon as possible, and at least within 24 hours. Speed to response is critical – even if you don’t have the answer, acknowledging and showing that you’re there and that you’re listening can do a lot to quell the anger.”From 34
    35. 35. Post-Crisis StrategiesBe clear about your limitationsExample:JetBlue grounds a plane during a snowstorm. Theyleave passengers on board for over 7 hours onOctober 30th, 2011.JetBlue answers all questions posed in social mediachannels. The communications team notes that theywere limited by the airport’s capacity, availability ofgates and stairs to access the plane. They refercustomers to their “Customer Bill of Rights”, institutedafter a similar crisis is February 2007. Taken November 1st, 2011 @ 3PM EST 35
    36. 36. Post-Crisis StrategiesNot all crises can be solved using social mediaExample: BP Global oil spill in May, 2010. BPs CEO Tony Hayward to the Guardian on May 14th, 2010: “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume." David Spark: “If you really screw things up (e.g., the BP oil crisis) no matter how much social media you do, the disaster will always outweigh your communications. A real disaster is a real disaster.”From 36
    37. 37. Thank YouQuestions? In 140 characters or less, please. 37