Case Study: Lessons Learned

So it turns out my other lessons learned (you can’t control everything, plan ahead, automate and social media is a culture) proved fitting for the final assignment. They all apply to the group work we had to do for this #smrtcce class.

We had a unique group being that we were a foursome, instead of a group of three like most of our classmates. In one way it was nice to be able to divvy up the work, but it was also tricky to coordinate. We don’t live in the same city either. But that’s the point of social media, right? To be able to transcend distance…

So let me answer three “questions”, and briefly summarize what I gleaned from this experience (I’ll make it short and sweet – that’s why I said “briefly”).

1. What you learned about your personal abilities, work habits and behaviours.

I have a decent work ethic. I like to do things according to a timeline. I tend to become the leader (read: take control). I can perform a mean gap analysis and fill holes when needed.

2. What you learned about working as part of a team.

I’ve worked in teams before. I love team sports; collaborating at work. This was a unique experience though because we had to use social media tools to complete the project. And we all had different comfort levels when it came to using those tools. I have to say that everyone made a real effort and I appreciated working with our team.

I like team work, but I also dislike relying on people who aren’t me. I have to credit our team with making that adjustment a lot easier (on me) than I anticipated.

3. What you will do differently in the future to be more effective both as an individual contributor and as a team member.

I need to learn to be more flexible (like Lesson 1) as an individual contributor. Because I like to do things my way. Only my team mates can tell me if I hid my bossy tendencies as well as I think I did.

As a team member, I could have stepped up sooner to help plan ahead a little more (like Lesson 2). As I move on in my career, and as I age, I’d like to think that I am capable of really changing my behaviour – to be able to plan ahead more. But I know that’s probably not going to happen.

Yes, I like a timeline, but I trained long, and I trained hard in my undergraduate years and now I’m a procrastinator extraordinaire. No one can take that away from me 🙂

Final note

Being effective to me means being flexible and adapting to the group’s needs. If the group seems to need a leader, step up. If the group needs someone to do the technical stuff, offer up your skills.

When it comes to social media, as I learned earlier, it’s a culture. Successful social media campaigns, just like successful group dynamics, depend on the ways you participate.


We’re Live: GO Transit Case Study

Hi all, as promised in my last blog post, I’m posting the link to our GO Transit Case Study slideshow posted in SlideShare.

For the comprehensive collection of research, once again here are the links to Aaron’s blog, Ana’s blog and Tanya’s blog.

The team would love for you to have a look and to post any feedback you have!

The final curtain.


Thanks again, team. It’s been a slice!

Case Study: GO Transit

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things…”

Well, I’m only really going to talk about what our #smrtcce team has been working on these past few weeks. Our GO Transit case study has come to a head.

We’ve been preparing a presentation in the background – and it’ll combine all of our contributions. I’ll link you to it once we’ve perfected it.

For now, I’m going to fill you in on my input (AKA the part that was assigned to me!).

Organizational Goal

GO’s vision of its future, according to its Strategic Plan (2020) is:

“GO Transit will be the preferred choice for interregional travel in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.”

Directly tied to this vision is GO Transit’s Passenger Charter. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll state the key one again: “Keeping you in the Know.” Again, this is GO’s promise to its customers to keep them informed.

These are pretty high level, so let’s get to the Communications Objectives.

Communications Objectives

GO Transit lists 6 objectives to achieve their vision. The second item is “GO Transit will be a leader in customer service.” 

One of the ways they plan to be successful in this is through “Effective customer communications.” Here’s exactly what it says:

“Customers will have easy access, through a choice of media, to the information they need to understand GO Transit services, plan their trip, and adjust to any service disruptions. GO customers will be informed promptly and updated frequently when service is disrupted and will receive accurate information about the cause of the delay.” (pg. 15)

The company also lists a challenge to this specific objective:

“Communication methods must constantly evolve to respond to customers’ increasing expectations for accurate and timely information, and to take advantage of new technologies to monitor service and distribute the information to the customers who need it.” (pg. 15)

Appropriately the team’s tactic fits nicely into the communications objectives.

via GO Transit

The Tactic

La pièce de résistance.

The team has come up with an overarching tactic to be employed by GO Transit. Based on our research of other transit systems, and research in to how GO Transit already incorporates the use of social media (keep in mind our focus on Lakeshore West train passengers), here’s what we came up with:

  • GO Transit should empower the customer service ambassadors on the trains to be able to tweet updates and delays from dedicated Twitter handles.

For example, for Lakeshore West, using the @LkShWGO  Twitter handle (or something prettier), the customer service ambassadors can tweet to its followers. The account should stipulate the following:

  • tweets are part of a wider program to inform and, therefore, not to be solely relied upon
  • we’ll do our best to keep up with tweets
  • name the customer service ambassadors and list initials of tweeter

The tactic is pretty simple and straightforward. The use of the tool is free. The only times costs come into play are when we discuss training customer service ambassadors and incorporating this into the customer satisfaction survey. But it’s not too intensive, in our opinion.

Why the team thinks this is a good idea

So the team thinks this tactic works for multiple reasons.

First and foremost, the tactic addresses that communications objectives listed above. It’s offering GO Transit passengers yet another way to stay informed. It’s one more option among the different types of media GO Transit is already using to keep its passengers in the know (an app, direct email alerts, signage, etc.). Just another “choice of media.”

Telling customers about these dedicated Twitter handles would be easy considering GO Transit uses all kinds of different media – Facebook, Twitter, its website, emails, etc. It’s just a matter of spreading the word and offering the option.

We also think the tactic addresses that pesky little challenge (also listed above) about communication methods constantly evolving. Customers expect timely and accurate information. Twitter is real time. BOOM.

Customers would have to choose to follow the dedicated handles, which they could do for those transit lines they used most frequently. The dedicated Twitter handles are also easily “stopped” if it’s not something customers are really using.

Another positive outcome could be a reduction in negative comments on other social media platforms used by GO Transit. And, that little report card they have? They might see their scores improve in customer satisfaction.

So what?

Ultimately passengers want to have a little more control over their commutes. Offering them another option to receive updates gives them more information, and the ability to make decisions based on that information. This goes a long way in keeping customers satisfied. And it’s one more way to beef up GO Transit’s customer service program.

What do you think? Got anything to add?

Lesson #4: Einhorn is Finkle. Finkle is Einhorn.

Usually when I take a class, I learn a few things. The #smrtcce class is no different. (I think I just heard Jared let out a sigh of relief.)

You can read about some of the other things I’ve learned in this class:

This culmination of learning brings me to my next (and maybe final) lesson. The whole “final” thing depends on how epic I think this post ends up being.

The catalyst

Earlier this month, I tweeted under the #smrtcce hashtag. Here’s a screenshot:

The tweet linked my followers to a Ragan’s PR Daily article called “The Army Reserve’s 10 rules for social media practitioners.” Now, that title may have scared some, but Lt. Col. Andrew Morton (who wrote the article) offers some really great tips – straight from the U.S. Army Reserve.

Scroll to the bottom of the article (the Summary section).

Warning: reading the Summary section may elicit brain synapses and extreme feelings of minds exploding.

The realization

Among his words of advice, one thing really stood out to me. He says, “Social media is not a device, a platform, or a medium.”

Say whaaaaat?

He continues, “It’s a culture.”

Woah. Mind blown.

I definitely had an Ace Ventura moment (hence this blog’s title). Here’s the moment I’m referring to:


Saying social media is a culture might be a simple concept to a lot of people. But this was completely revelatory to me. And the idea sums up the #smrtcce class for me.

Social media is a culture that people choose to opt in to, or opt out of. There are those who fully embrace the culture. There are others who sit more on the peripheries. Some folks are “counterculturalists” who sit outside the hegemonic circles (thank you, Antonio Gramsci).

Whether we’re coming from a business perspective or a personal perspective, we choose how we’ll interact with social media. And there are many tools to help us participate (to what degree is the choice).

Just like with other cultures, there’s also etiquette to be aware of. For example, in Thai culture, it’s considered rude to point or touch anything with your feet. In Canadian culture, it’s considered rude (even if justified) to show somebody your middle finger.

And just like those instances, there are accepted behaviours and there are behaviours that are frowned upon in social media culture. Even though social media is a culture that can transcend other cultures.

What now?

Now that I know how to use many of the tools, and how to plan, strategize and measure activity in social media culture, I guess I’ll have to decide how I’ll participate…beyond an academic setting.

Thank you

This is just a quick post to say a big “thank you” to my #smrtcce case study team mates. (Not to be confused with “teamsters”.)

It’s been (and continues to be) a pleasure to work with Aaron, Ana and Tanya.

From our research strategies to Google Docs brainstorming, and everything in between, it’s been great fun using social media as a way of communicating and exploring.

I can’t wait to cross the finish line with you guys.

Readers: Stay tuned for the final product! In the meantime, you can check out some of our research (in the way of blog posts) on MTATranslink and STM transit systems.


MTA — Transit in New York City

It’s been a while since my last few posts about GO Transit’s use of social media. Turns out, there will be a few more from me and a few classmates (Aaron, Ana and Tanya)!

The team and I decided we’d look at a few other, comparable major cities and their transit systems. This post will be a brief snapshot of how the Metropolitan Transit Authority (in New York City) uses social media.

image via MTA website


MTA has a very similar website to GO Transit’s. Both post updates, governance information, a trip planner and customer-friendly information, for instance.

The advantage to the MTA website is a Service Status update. This section updates users with the different transit lines’ service assessments. As you can see in the image below, the application is divided into different sections such as subway, rail, bus, and bridges and tunnels. And then each transit line (depending on which category it falls under) gets its own little service rating. This application can be downloaded as a widget and shared via social media.

MTA Service Status screenshot

The team thinks that this application is something that could easily be adopted by GO Transit. It would be a simpler application for GO because it would only be divided into rail and bus, and each route under those headings would have its own service status posted.

Twitter and Facebook

MTA has a Twitter account (@MTAInsider). Here are a few of the Twitter account stats as of March 12, 2012:

  • Following ~100
  • ~2,000 tweets to date

The @MTAInsider tweets are similar to @GetontheGO tweets but the account user responds more to direct messages. So, instead of posting a generic “please contact a customer service representative,” the account users engage and then respond with more specific instructions.

The @MTAInsider profile clearly states that the Twitter account is not monitored 24-7.

MTA also has a Facebook page, which is very similar to GO Transit’s page.  MTA posts updates, people respond and use the page to comment (both negatively and positively) about service.


The team is focusing on GO Transit’s “Keeping you in the know” goal. With that in mind, I think we can take a few tips from how MTA does employs the use of social media. The company’s use of social media isn’t perfect, but maybe GO Transit can become a leader in its use and application of social media in Canada.

So far the team’s still in the research phase, using Google Docs and a few of the other tools at our disposal. Suggestions, and some more research to come!

Automate – lesson #3

You’re likely aware that I take the train. Frequently. And that I talk about it all the time. With that, it’s been helpful to have a smart phone.

I can check my email, any social media sites I’m on and even my blog  – all from my phone.

Sometimes, whether it’s for personal reasons or professional reasons, if you don’t have alerts or notifications set up, it’s very easy to miss opportunities for engagement.

This brings me to my third lesson in this #smrtcce class: automate.

Make it easy on yourself

When it comes to social media, I think it’s a great idea to get notifications. If you plan to engage (effectively), it’s helpful to know if someone has tweeted you a direct message, or has posted on your wall, or commented on your blog. Without having to go to each site individually to check.

Image courtesy of AOL

Now some proponents of time management would suggest responding to email no more than 2-3 times a day.

If you already have trouble managing your email, you might want to read the Harvard Business School’s Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload.

When you choose to check and respond to email is up to you, but if you receive notifications, at least you know that someone is trying to communicate with you. Depending on the sites you use, it may be a good idea to research a dashboard like HootSuite.

Take Advantage of Opportunities

This lesson is about making informed decisions. There are tools available to us to be able to better manage our use of social media. If we use the tools properly, we will be more effective and engaged users of social media.

Of course, it’s up to you to respond…and to make sure your responses are useful and timely.

Don’t ya think?