Someone was gunned down in a TTC station on Thursday. So what were TTC officials doing on Twitter?
Before starting in on the TTC's Twitter communications strategy, I must disclose I'm very appreciative that Toronto's transit authorities are on the forefront of social networking technology like Twitter. It's refreshing to see, in real-time, the responsiveness of the once unresponsive commission. It's a source of pride that our civic leaders are in tune with what's going in this ever-changing world in which we live in*, and that they are changing with that world.
But, at the same time, that the chair and communications director of the TTC have signed up to a Twitter account should not be overplayed. It is but a very small gesture to a very small audience.
At present, Brad Ross, the communications director of the commission, has some 370 followers on Twitter. Adam Giambrone, our hardworking TTC chair, has a little more than a hundred. The TTCUpdates page has 400-some followers (but under 50 updates). And there is some overlap in followers between the three.
Together, their Twitter updates reach a tiny fraction of TTC riders. In fact, I bet if Giambrone wrote TTC updates on Post-It notes and stuck them to the door of my apartment, they would reach more TTC users than his Twitter account.
Throughout this tragic morning, when subways were disrupted by a brazen in-station shooting, Ross and Giambrone were posting alternative routes and service updates to their respective Twitter accounts. (The TTCUpdates Twitter was not updated until around 3 pm!)
For those under-500 users reading the updates, I suppose that was helpful.
Mass transit, though, is nothing without the mass. And where is the mass communication in this situation?
While Giambrone was posting that "trains are bypassing Osgoode" on his Twitter, the webpage for Osgoode Station reported "no major service disruptions at this time." Should Twitterers be getting Tweets before the rest of the city can even get the bare bones information?
I've said it before and I hope not to say it again: the TTC communication seems to be caught up in a techno-braggadocio that appeases a small, Internet-savvy audience. From where I Tweet, that's a backwards strategy, and one that will ultimately fail everyone, including the Twitterers.