Mar 15, 2014

When a Campaign Goes Viral: #AmtrakResidency Garners 21,000 Mentions in Six Days

Amtrak has opened up a new can of worms, and it appears the fish are biting.

By now, you’ve likely heard of the #AmtrakResidency program the company plans to offer writers.

In case you missed this story, it began Dec. 23 on the PEN America site.  Author Alexander Chee casually mentioned his favorite place to write was on the train. He said he wished “Amtrak had residencies for writers.”

That’s all it took.  The conversation landed on Twitter, and Amtrak captured it.

In fact, #AmtrakResidency garnered 21,000 mentions in just six days. To put that into perspective, Amtrak typically sees 25,000 to 30,000 mentions within a 90-day period. Also as a result, Amtrak’s Twitter following grew 10 percent.

“Every brand is looking for the next viral campaign,” said Julia Quinn, Amtrak director of social media and head of the #AmtrakResidency program. “This was born through social media. The number of people who raised their hands to participate was huge. It would be writing powered by Amtrak, and hopefully it will be an inspirational experience to get their creative juices flowing.”

Amtrak has been working fast to formalize the program: What it will look like, who gets to ride, and how writers are selected.

But Amtrak recognizes that while it’s uniquely cut out to do something special here, it must tread lightly in these waters. Officials there don’t want to cause ethical conflicts between a journalist and his/her employer or cross pay-for-play lines. To that end, there’s no required number of tweets or shares about Amtrak and no contract to participate.

Any mentions of Amtrak quite literally will come from organic buzz, turning this opportunity into an advocacy program for the brand.

“This is a program that could become a staple at Amtrak,” Quinn said. “We’ll monitor as we go. The sky’s the limit right now, but we don’t want to get lost in the excitement. We want to make sure we’re still making good decisions for our brand.”

Coincidentally, as #AmtrakResidency carved its conversation into Twitter, Amtrak already was planning its first-ever #AmtrakLive event, hosting more than 30 digital leaders and innovators to live tweet and blog on the Texas Eagle from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas in early this month. Social media influencers shared updates via Twitter and Instagram.

Christine Cube is a media relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. Follow her @cpcube or give her a shout on PR Newswire’s Google+.

7 Comments on Blog Post Title

Brianna Soloski 10:10 EDT on Mar 15, 2014

I love traveling by train so I would love to do a residency. I think it’s really smart on Amtrak’s part to have jumped on this bandwagon.

Jacoline Loewen 10:25 EDT on Mar 17, 2014

Brilliant marketing – Amtrak is brave enough to jump into social media. It would be interesting to see if any other big companies try something completely new. I would love to get a writer’s residency for my next business book.

Dr Donna Vincent Roa (@donnavincentroa) 19:30 EDT on Mar 18, 2014

Just inked a new water book project with a partner. Would love to take part in #AmtrakResidency to kick it off! Where’s the application? I’m in.

Christine Cube 13:49 EDT on Mar 19, 2014

I totally agree with you, Brianna. Good stuff.

Christine Cube 13:51 EDT on Mar 19, 2014

You should try for a residency! No harm in trying.

Christine Cube 13:52 EDT on Mar 19, 2014

I don’t know if the application has been finalized yet. I would get in touch with Amtrak. They’re likely further along since I last spoke with them.

Bruce Garcia 21:25 EDT on Mar 30, 2014

This is a brilliant advertising idea by Amtrak. Using the social media by making a viral campaign on advertisements has been proven to be very effective and they are reaping all the benefits.

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