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Amtrak’s “Trains” Tweet Went Through Seven Rounds of Revisions
I spoke with Nicolle Lopez, Social Media Manager at Amtrak, about Amtrak's Twitter strategy.
I’m fairly certain that “trains” day will go down in social media manager history.
For the uninitiated, on September 1st, 2022 at exactly 12:00 p.m. the official Amtrak Twitter account simply tweeted out the word “trains”. Almost immediately, other brands joined in with their version of a one-word post.
If you ask any social manager they’ll likely tell you this was one of the easiest trends to hop onto. It wasn’t risky, didn’t require legal approval, and was just plain fun. But when I spoke with Nicolle Lopez, Social Media Manager at Amtrak, she revealed the original “trains” tweet that spurred this trend actually took over three months to finalize and approve.
I think when the general public sees big brands start to have more fun on social, they assume it’s the social manager going rogue. They just decided to log on that day and ~have a little fun~. For many brands, including Amtrak, that’s far from the reality. Changing and adapting a social strategy takes a lot of time, meetings, approvals, and meaningful strategy.
In today’s newsletter, Nicolle and I talk about the process of tweaking a social strategy to attract a new audience, the importance of brand voice, and more.
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Rachel Karten: First, can you tell me about your current job and any past social (or not!) jobs you've had?
Nicolle Lopez: As Amtrak’s Social Media Manager, I lead strategy and execution for all social marketing efforts of America’s Railroad. Previously, I worked at a full-service agency specializing in digital brand partnerships and social for the NFL, National Geographic and Perry Ellis International.
RK: How would you describe Amtrak's social strategy?
NL: When ridership fell during the pandemic and became more focused on leisure travel, we pivoted with a new tone and voice on our social channels that still aligned with the Amtrak brand but allowed us to reach new audiences. We’ve implemented a mix between educational, humorous, and trendy content to invite new riders onboard and keep them entertained and informed about sustainable travel.
RK: And how would you describe Amtrak's Twitter strategy in particular?
NL: As younger audiences seek out more sustainable and efficient forms of travel, Twitter is a great space to introduce and promote train travel. Because of the content-heavy nature of Twitter, we need to stand out and cause users to “stop the scroll.” We’ve learned less is more. Our strategy is to relate to our users through humor and provide “info-tainment” to develop brand affinity and influence travel behavior.
RK: What would you say your goal is on Twitter?
NL: In addition to brand awareness, Twitter has become a great educational platform. We offer so much at Amtrak—500+ destinations across the country and Canada, the freedom to use phones and electronic devices at all times (no “airplane mode”) and large spacious seats with no middle seat—and a big pillar of our social strategy is sharing this knowledge with new potential riders. Twitter also continues to be our most popular customer service platform via our main Amtrak handle and several additional handles dedicated to providing train status updates and 24/7 customer support.
RK: I have to ask—how did the iconic "trains" tweet come about?
NL: Believe it or not, this one-word tweet took seven rounds of revisions over three months! That tweet was part of an experimental series of text-only formats we were testing to reach new audiences.
RK: Seven rounds of revisions! Over three months! Most people assumed this was just a quick, off-the-cuff idea. Did you work with other brands to also tweet one words to start that trend? Or did it naturally just catch on?
NL: This trend naturally caught on! It happened right before a long weekend, so audiences had an appetite for fun, light-hearted content.
RK: I also have to ask about the below tweet. Can I get a little BTS of how it came about? Do inside jokes (like this) with your audience inform content strategy?
NL: We have some of the best fans in the world and fan art has always been part of railfan culture. With the recent rise in anime’s mainstream popularity, this post is a nod to the fan art we’ve received throughout the years and our amazing employees!
RK: What's your brainstorm process like for tweets?
NL: Everything we post at Amtrak is a team effort with a lot of thought behind it. We do follow the traditional format of working on larger Twitter campaigns through quarterly and monthly planning—that’s where “trains” came from. For more trendy or pop-culture related content, we‘ll discuss and work quickly to determine our plan. No matter what, everyone’s voice on the team is heard.
RK: What's the approval process for your tweets like?
NL: During a typical content cycle, all tweets go through several rounds of revisions. When we work on the fly, it is mandatory to have additional rounds of review to provide different perspectives and ensure brand voice.
RK: There's a really nice mix of humor, beautiful train views, and brand messaging on Twitter. How do you think about what content should (or shouldn’t) go on that channel.
NL: It’s all about what our audience wants and what they respond to. We’re a train company—we’re happy to make you laugh, but we’re the happiest when we can take you somewhere. Our strategy reflects that. While some people may follow us for the initial chuckle, they will stay to plan their dream adventure.
RK: Is there a tweet or brand moment that you're particularly proud of? Tell me about it!
RK: The day the “trains” tweet dropped was surreal. Another great moment from 2022 was when Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 reposted our emo train TikTok, and I like to believe that led to the band’s reunion.
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RK: What's your favorite part about working in social media?
NL: Every day is different at Amtrak and social media is always evolving. Add in the fact that the world is finally seeing social media’s impact and importance, and I’m really happy to be part of that and to do it for Amtrak.
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