Reflections: #MacPirate

Recently I participated in the McMaster Class in Advertising.  I was one of the remote participants. That meant that I followed the #MacPirate hashtag on Twitter, but there was no live-feed of the event itself, so I was relying on classmates and other participants to post informative tweets. Perhaps a tall order…

As I reflect on my experience of the event, I’ll answer 4 main questions.

What was it like to participate or monitor what was going on at the event without being there?

In a word: eep. Have you ever read the entire script of a TV show episode? Well I have. I’ll tell you it’s much easier to just watch the episode.

I sat (comfortably in my PJs, mind you) refreshing my Twitter feed. I tried to read every #MacPirate tweet as it came across my screen. Not too tough. And I had a couple of questions ready to ask via Twitter.

Frankly, it was kind of boring. And ultimately, I wish I could have been there, but that’s how the cookie crumbles.

Did you feel like you were connected to what was going on? What would have helped improve the experience?

I had seen Terry O’Reilly speak at a Speaker’s Spotlight event, so I had some sense of what the presentation might be like. Of course, reading a ticker tape of 140-charactered sentiments wasn’t the most engaging experience.

I think my one wish was to have had a webcast of the event itself. It would have been much easier to follow. There were more tweets leading up to the event (expressing excitement for the speeches to begin) than there were tweets during the event. I understand though. You were watching the speeches and trying to listen and engage. Tweeting isn’t the most ideal activity when we have our listening ears on.

During the Q&A period, it would have helped to have been tweeted the questions that got asked of the panel. I sent a few questions into the Twittersphere without knowing if any had reached the stage. I think one of my questions (regarding social media) might have been asked but I can’t be sure.

What role did you take on Twitter? (Resource person, inquirer, observer, etc.)

I was definitely more of an observer. I read the tweets as they popped up and I was pretty bored. But I’m also a visual learner.

I did ask a couple of questions but, again, I just wasn’t sure if they were going anywhere. I suppose I could have tweeted specific people at the event, but I felt that might be intrusive to their experience.

I certainly appreciated those who tried to act as resource persons during the event. Some very thoughtful and informative tweets stood out while others were just quote-splices of advertising song choices (I think).

From your perspective, when it comes to using Twitter at events like this one, what would you stopstart, and continue doing to improve the experience?

Stop: I wouldn’t really stop anything. There were no issues with offensive tweets or anything like that. I’m not sure if it would be helpful to give some instruction on what it’s like to follow a Twitter feed. And, with that, have examples of good, bad and ugly tweets.

Start: I would recommend, if it’s possible for the event you’re running, to host a webcast or video stream of the presentation. That would cut down on the “unnecessary” tweets and help those remote users engage more effectively.

Continue: A Twitter hashtag for the event was a great idea. Although it wasn’t the most epic Twitter experience, I did get to participate in some way. And, all in all, it was kind of interesting to see what people chose to tweet about. A study in anthropology…

To those folks who tried to keep me engaged: thank you! I did sincerely appreciate the tweets. Without the feed, I wouldn’t have been able to participate at all.

Here’s one perspective from someone who attended the event in person.

Until next time!


Plan ahead — lesson, the 2nd

However pitiable it might be, it’s time to impart my wisdom. Again!

Plan like you’ve never planned before

In the throes of my case study research, I often found it difficult to visualize the end result. There’s so much information to wade through, and having to blog about my research has been so different from other, more traditional academic requirements. It was a challenge to “see the forest for the trees.”

Personally, I like to learn by doing. So, after completing the first part of this semester-long project, I can tell you that
planning is paramount

Particularly for an academic blog, advanced planning makes all the difference for keeping up with regular posts. When you’re tackling a case study (like my fellow #smrtcce classmates and I have been doing this semester) it can be even tougher to get that up-front planning done before you sit down to write.

And, in an attempt to have some semblance of a social life, I’ve been forced to plan ahead.  In a perfect world, I’d tell you that this works 100% of the time. But like I mention in my first lesson, something always manages to get in the way. Reality usually works out a little more like that Brian Fantana quote from Anchorman: “They’ve done studies, you know. 60% of the time, it works every time.”

Image courtesy of

Big picture

This #smrtcce lesson has a broader meaning for the PR profession too. PR pros often find themselves in tactician roles and we struggle to find a way to work toward that strategist role.

It’s important to keep the end result (or big picture) front of mind and work toward that goal, strategically. Even if it means doing a lot of the planning up front.

Short-term pain for long-term gain, if you ask me. Armed with a clear, logical plan that aligns with the strategic business goals of your company, you’ll be better positioned to get that coveted seat at the executive table.

GO Transit #FAIL?

Man it’s great when companies make mistakes. Otherwise, what would we have to blog about?

Maybe I’m being picky here, but let me present my case for GO Transit’s recent #FAIL. Then you can decide.

The evidence

On the afternoon of Wednesday, February 8, 2012, @GetontheGO tweeted:

Screenshot (Feb. 8, 2012) of @GetontheGO Twitter feed

Seems like a regular, everyday, corporate kind of tweet. Nothing amiss, right? Wrong.

Here’s why. Follow the link they inserted into their tweet. There’s nothing wrong with posting a link to their Passenger Charter. Except for one small problem. This video was posted a year ago.

Here’s the video (but you can also check out their YouTube Channel to see when the video was posted):



Old news

I actually like GO Transit’s Passenger Charter. It’s straightforward, clear and gets to the core of some of their issues. But this tweet, to me, is like saying “check out how we’re doing the same thing we’ve been doing all year.”

Why is GO Transit linking us to old news? There are a ton of other, more current things @GetontheGO could be tweeting about.

If you want to link us to this video, why not just say something like “if you missed it, check out our Passenger Charter and let us know what you think”?

More proof

There’s a ton of research on what makes a tweet good and what makes a tweet bad. Here’s a blog posted to Technorati on that very subject.

The most important thing I’d like to draw your attention to is the FIRST of the “9 ways to avoid annoying people with your Tweets.”

Yup, you guessed it, it’s “Don’t tweet old news.”

GO Transit vs. the world

After delving in to the world of GO Transit, I’ve come up with a few key “issues” for them to address.

Research at a glance

My primary research (thank goodness GO Transit conducts surveys so that I don’t have to) indicates that there are two specific areas GO Transit should address. One is “comfortable experience” and the other I’ll argue is “keeping you in the know.” The latter, I think it an area for improvement because it’s their lowest target and they haven’t posted the results. I’ll keep watching those scores…

Based on my secondary research of Facebook posts evaluation and GO Transit’s use of Twitter, it seems to me that customers aren’t feeling heard. Strange. Because GO Transit conducts those surveys. I wonder if everyone knows about that survey or how to participate?

I chose these formats because, in combination, they’re a great representation of the issues GO Transit is currently facing.  It just so happens, they’re also a great way for GO Transit to turn the negatives into positives. To me, it just makes sense to use these same platforms to communicate improvements and ask for feedback going forward.

“I’m learnding!”

Now that we know what’s standing in its way, GO Transit can move forward with a few objectives.

My suggestions? GO Transit needs to:

  1. Ask passengers (from my target audience in this case) their preferred method of communication and use those platforms to communicate going forward.
  2. Engage its audiences and actively build supportive online communities through increased, proactive use of social media tools. For example, use social media to ask customers what the company can be doing better instead of using Facebook and Twitter accounts as inboxes.
  3. Address the concerns of passengers (like comfort, services and fare hikes) and then communicate the results to those same publics.
  4. Be vocal about what the company can and cannot address and communicate improvements (and be honest about the shortcomings too) on those same platforms.

End scene

Even though GO Transit has a monopoly on the commuter rails, its goals still focus on customer satisfaction. If the company can engage passengers in a positive way, it’ll be sure to build its supportive online communities. Maybe then, GO Transit will garner more advocates and won’t have to defend itself as much.

Break it down

It’s time to get to the heart of the matter, GO Transit.

Framing the scenario

Here are a few questions I asked myself while conducting some research. Plus my own answers (because who doesn’t love it when people answer their own questions? The answer is no one).

  1. Who’s my “audience”? Lakeshore West GO bus and train commuters (Toronto to Hamilton and every stop in between) aged ~25-50.
  2. Why did I choose this target group? Because they’re the ones I usually see on the train during rush hour commuting for work. They’re also the group who seem to be most vocal about issues they have with GO Transit.
  3. What do members of this demographic have in common? Many use mobile devices while on the train. And most are just trying to get to and from work in a hassle-free way. Opportunity.
  4. What might make this group happy? More trains, straightforward routes, all at a reasonable cost.

How do I know what might make this group happy? See for yourself…here’s a collection of Facebook comments from Get on the GO’s page on the subject:

Recent negative Facebook comments about GO Transit services and fares

You’ll notice that the comments I picked had no replies from Get on the GO. Another social media management gap I will try to bridge for GO Transit.

Like I said in my last post: it’s not all bad. That survey that I mention (that GO Transit conducts regularly) points to a lot of “happy” customers. But there’s certainly room for improvement.

Fall into the GAP

Let’s take a step back. Let’s talk about GO Transit’s goal (or what should be their goal).

Reach for the stars

I already identified one of GO Transit’s communications gaps. Woah there, partner! What’s the big picture, you ask?

Let’s make this simple: GO Transit needs to increase its customer satisfaction.


I’ve done some research and the consensus is toning toward disappointment. Now, it’s not all bad, but I’m zoning in on the negative as something to be able to improve. We all want to get better at something, don’t we?

In addition to some of the other research I already performed, I should mention a couple more sources and be a little more specific.

After checking GO Transit’s official Facebook page regularly, more often than not, the comments trend as complaints. Worse than that, the complaints aren’t always addressed.

I also asked around. My question was always something like “why do you take the GO?” Usually the answer surrounded not wanting to deal with traffic. Other answers were because people liked to get work done on the train. Others? “Because I have to, not because I want to.”


A lot of people are generally satisfied with their commute but not so much with the GO Transit services. A blog commenter also reminded me that GO Transit has a virtual monopoly on GTA commutes.

No competition? That’s a topic for another day.

image courtesy of GO Transit

GO to them v2.0

Just a quick post about a tiny revelation. Although likely not revolutionary, I thought I’d share.

I keep hearing and reading that if you want to engage your audiences with the use of social media, then you should “go to them” (or “GO to them” in GO Transit’s case). Simply put, it means, you have to participate. But wait! There’s more! (Hence version 2.0)

I was doing some research on Twitter and noticed that @GetontheGO has nearly 5,000 followers. But, get this: GO is only following 57 others. I think when the ratio is 1:100, there’s a slight (read: huge) imbalance. Here’s a quick screen shot:

Twitter screen shot -- January 29, 2012

So it got me thinking. Being present in social media platforms isn’t enough. GO Transit needs to prompt discussion, start the conversation, participate and really “go to” their audiences. Follow fans and critics, partners and competitors alike. Tradesies! You gotta give to take.

GO Transit needs to increase its reach (even to actively engage critics), raise awareness (educate) and build supportive online communities. This will help with community management overall.

You can’t just wait to see what the issues are. And you can’t use social media solely for promotion. You’ve got to ask customers how you could be doing better. This is a definite gap in GO Transit’s social media campaign.

I know I’m probably stating the obvious. But, if that’s the case, why is GO Transit not addressing this specific “issue”? What do you think?