Regional operator Southern Rail placed its Twitter account in the hands of a 15-year-old last week, with surprising (if somewhat surreal) success.
The work experience student, known only as ‘Eddie’, was put in the social media hot seat last Tuesday, having worked alongside the Southern social media team the week before.
With Southern being the country’s poorest performing rail company, and embroiled in an ongoing dispute over guards that has resulted in strike action, Eddie might have expected a rough ride, but the novelty of the situation seemed to encourage Twitter users to expand their questioning beyond the usual requests for updates on their train services.
Instead, people seemed keen to explore the human side of the fledgling tweeter, quizzing him on mealtime suggestions and trying to stump him with riddles.
Hi Eddie, would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses? @girlterate and I need to know!
— James Bunting (@JGOBunting) July 11, 2017
Shall I have chicken fajitas tonight or chicken thai green curry? #AskEddie
— Ads (@Adam_W48) July 11, 2017
Eddie, however, seemed far from fazed by this offbeat line of questioning and answered everything thrown at him with some aplomb. He gained particular kudos from promoters of equal rights for his response to the below question, which first cropped up on an episode of BBC comedy The Office:
Hi, I don't think so but you never know there could be a girl that can. ^Eddie
— Southern (@SouthernRailUK) July 11, 2017
Eddie’s confident and entertaining performance earned him a few more spells manning the Southern Twitter feed during the week, and airtime on BBC Radio 1 on Wednesday, when he put his newfound popularity down to “just being me”. Host Scott Mills even talked of the possibility of an ‘Ask Eddie’ segment being introduced to his show.
For Southern, it represents a rare piece of positive publicity for an operator that tends to make headlines for unwanted reasons, and is certainly a social media step in the right direction compared to the misguided Twitter campaign last October in which Southern’s attempts to get commuters to ‘strike back’ against the RMT Union only succeeded in bringing out some home truths about Southern’s own approval ratings.
— Southern (@SouthernRailUK) July 12, 2017
Hardly surprising, therefore, that the operator is looking to make the most of this surge of interest by using the #AskEddie hashtag.
It’s also a reminder that in a job market that demands ‘experience’ at every turn, leaving many young people struggling to get started, perhaps the best suited individuals to be working in this new form of media are those who have grown up using it. Statistics show that around one in eight Twitter users are under the age of 18, and well over a third are under 25. Later this week, the Engage Web team is heading to SAScon in Manchester, which is always an event that makes you feel your age and reminds you that there are plenty of ‘Eddies’ coming through the ranks in the world of social media and search analytics.