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Would you put a work experience teen in charge of your corporate Twitter account?
How about if that account had 161,000 followers and was often dominated by tweets from disgruntled customers?
It certainly sounds like a brave move for someone with little workplace experience or social media training.
But the end result was surely far better than Southern Rail could have possible hoped for.
The teenager, known as Eddie, took over the beleaguered train company’s @SouthernRailUK handle yesterday afternoon (11/7).
And his performance won it some new fans, a trending hashtag, some much needed positive media coverage and overall has to go down as a PR triumph.
Here are a few headlines:
Work experience teen takes over Southern Rail’s Twitter BBC News
Work experience boy runs Southern Rail’s Twitter account Sky News
Work experience boy Eddie takes over Southern Rail’s Twitter feed with hilarious and sweet results Evening Standard
It was surely with some trepidation that Eddie announced at 2pm, through a tweet which was retweeted 1,235 times, that he was ‘ready to answer your questions’.
Hi, Eddie here! Here on Work Experience and ready to answer your questions! 😊— Southern (@SouthernRailUK) July 11, 2017
But instead of the usual feed dominated by frustrated commuters – Southern has apologised to customers more than 11,000 times this year according to the website Sorry for the inconvenience – Eddie found himself responding to a series or bizarre and random non-train related questions.
Subjects included the football team he supports and his GCSEs, to what various passengers should have for dinner and the more ridiculous, yet amusing, ‘would you rather fight a horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?’.
100 duck-sized horses. A horse-sized duck would be pretty scary! You? ^Eddie— Southern (@SouthernRailUK) July 11, 2017
It has to be the chicken fajitas 😉 ^Eddie— Southern (@SouthernRailUK) July 11, 2017
Hi, it has to be a war monger. The fish monger at my nearest ASDA is amazing. ^Eddie— Southern (@SouthernRailUK) July 11, 2017
Yet he remained unfazed even when faced with a question about whether Southern will be meeting with Aslef to resolve the overtime ban.
Hi Brian, any new information that arises will be posted here: https://t.co/9Dqp8SSkBR . ^Eddie— Southern (@SouthernRailUK) July 11, 2017
Arguably his best moment came when answering a tweet about whether a boy would ever be able to swim faster than a shark. Eddie responded with ‘I don’t think so but you never know there could be a girl that can’.
During the successful session Eddie was offered more work experience at ScotRail, while Southern was encouraged to give him a permanent role by the British Transport Police account.
Passengers were also quick to send their praise and a spokesperson for the company was quoted in the media saying they were ‘thrilled he has won over so many of our customers this afternoon’.
Huge respect to you Eddie! Smashing it mate pic.twitter.com/h6snWmNB5p— John Brown (@brownbare) July 11, 2017
Eddie you are singlehandedly restoring Southern Rail's reputation, good effort!— Simon Battle (@simonbattle007) July 11, 2017
To be clear, it was evident a member of Southern’s social media team was on hand to occasionally help with some of the trickier questions and steer the conversation when questions were not suitable for a teenage boy to answer.
But overall, what on the face of it seemed like a huge gamble destined to hit the buffers, turned into an unprecedented success for Southern, thanks to Eddie's abundant enthusiasm, humour and good nature.
It will be interesting to see whether this success continues, and passengers remain as patient, when he returns to the controls later today.
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