How One Night of #WMATA Social Media Silence Killed Months of Earned Goodwill
By Mike Rupert @rupertmike
Just two hours ago, the DC Metro system also known as WMATA ground to a halt. The crisis was apparently caused by a complete meltdown of the transit service’s servers and/or power systems. The issue caused the operations, communications systems and website to go completely offline.
Hundreds if not thousands of tweets from across the region started flying in right after 11 p.m. on Thursday night. Yet both the @wmata Twitter handle and the semi-personal Twitter handle of its chief spokesperson Dan Stessel @dstessel were absolutely silent.
One of the most powerful benefits of engaging on social media is to bring goodwill to your organization. If you engage, be transparent, and human online, people who use your service – whether you’re a restaurant, nail salon, or major metropolitan mass transit system – will give you a little leeway, cut you a little break during a hiccup.
Metro has done a great job recently reaching out to customers, addressing criticism, highlighting improvements and generally opened up the agency to the public. They have been lauded for their recent efforts even by those who have historically been its biggest critics. Yet months, even years, of public relations and community outreach efforts are quickly forgotten when a real crisis occurs and you neglect the relationships you worked so hard to build during tough times.
Sure you’re ‘new friend’ is great to hangout with when things are great. They’ll come hangout, have a few drinks. But when you run out of gas or lock your keys in the car, do they suddenly forget to answer the phone?
Even if they can’t help you right now, they should still ‘answer the phone’ and say sorry. Tonight, Metro didn’t even let it go to voicemail. Everyone received a “this line has been disconnected” message.
In just two hours, Metro has killed any goodwill they have earned over the past year. They’ll have to work twice as hard to earn all that back now.
Having a COOP/Crisis plan is essential for an organization that operates at this scale – not just from an operations standpoint, but from a communications and public relations standpoint.