On Wednesday night, the person who runs the Twitter feed for San Francisco's BART system began answering riders' frustrated tweets with frank, honest statements that eschewed the bland "thank you for your feedback" and the chipper "we're working on it!" norms of corporate social media in favor of brutally honest assessments of the sorry state of the system, starting with, "BART was built to transport far fewer people, and much of our system has reached the end of its useful life. This is our reality."
BART's twitter manager, Taylor Huckabee (who tweets in his personal capacity as @iwriterealgood) turned #thisisourreality into a hashtag, and continued to answer (and sometimes rebut) riders with open, truthful statements about the state of BART, a cash-starved piece of critical infrastructure in a city that's bursting at its seams.
Public reaction has been gratifyingly sympathetic: it turns out that riders and customers don't want to be spoon-fed bland reassurances; they want to know what is going on, where the problems lie, who is at fault, and what can be done about it.
There's a lesson here for other businesses.
@kettering No - sugarcoating problems, especially ones obviously disrupting people's lives, isn't an effective or honest way to communicate.— SFBART (@SFBART) March 17, 2016
@BGRod10 We need to replace 90 miles of rail.— SFBART (@SFBART) March 17, 2016
@juliakite Rails, tunnels, power cabling and substations, fare gates, fault line creep mitigation... it adds up.— SFBART (@SFBART) March 17, 2016
@jalrobinson We don't consider successfully moving the equivalent of the population of Atlanta through BART on a daily basis a failure.— SFBART (@SFBART) March 17, 2016
@jalrobinson At the end of the day, we're just trying to illustrate the importance of public transit to the Bay Area - and America.— SFBART (@SFBART) March 17, 2016