This is a tweet from the Ministry of Railways’ handle @RailMinIndia. Notice that it is not just an announcement of special trains for the Kumbh Mela, but also contains a data comparison from the previous one in 2004 (when incidentally, the NDA was not in power) – a simple but brilliant strategem to prove that “good things are happening”.
The Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, has done a stellar job in leveraging the platform to reach out to train users, responding to complaints and gaining free PR for the Railways.
Satirical articles from naysayers aside, this is indeed a refreshing initiative from the Railways. The Government has never been known for its pioneering adoption of technology previously, and this is a “leading” adoption – they’ve adopted a technology for which the users must (and I’m sure will) follow. From paper forms to SMS to twitter messages is not that great a leap as some may think for queries, railway schedules and complaints.
The speed with which twitter complaints are being attended to is getting a lot of attention online. Mr. Prabhu has become a social media star, with @sureshpprabhu garnering 852K followers and a TED talk on “Reinventing the Indian Railways”.
All this has translated to huge positive PR for the Indian Railways. It is a case study in how a government ministry – one that has very little to do with technology (if you ignore the bullet trains being built on 0.1% loan) – has leveraged a new age platform to gain media attention. The cost is pennies (Some smart phones for regional railway officials? Using equipment and people for work they should have done anyway?) in comparison to the cost of running ads in print media which no one reads anyway.
Companies can draw valuable lessons on how to use Twitter from the Indian Railways.