Amtrak Takes Advantage of Social Buzz with Sponsored Trip to SXSW

Skift Take

The travel junket is expanding outside of the usual blogger circles with Amtrak tapping an even more influential set of social media users. The company’s quick response to social suggestions is creating a new and unexpected marketing opportunity.

— Samantha Shankman

Amtrak is trying to become cool and stumbled its way to into group of prolific social sharers last week when several writers started tweeting about their desire for Amtrak ‘writer residencies.’

Now Amtrak is working quickly to capitalize on the marketing opportunity.

The company announced this evening that it will be transporting 30 entrepreneurs and digital leaders on a train from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas, for the SXSW interactive festival.

It’s no coincidence that most of the participants have large social media followings since they’ll be expected to update their Twitter and Instagram accounts with stories about their trip and the #AmtrakLive hashtag.

“AmtrakLIVE will have amazing scenery, engaging collaboration and the opportunity to explore and be inspired – it’s all part of the Amtrak long-distance experience,” said Amtrak director of social media Julia Quinn in a statement.

Virgin America also used the interactive festival as an opportunity to drum up social buzz when it introduced the “nerd bird” flight from San Francisco to Austin last year.

Amtrak will provide additional details on the Amtrak Residency program later this week.

Amtrak on Social Media

Amtrak has been busy on social media since the idea of writer residencies erupted.

According to SkiftIQ, the company’s Twitter account tweeted 177.6 tweets per day, a 220.0% change in activity from its overall rate of 56.0 tweets per day. Ninety percent of the daily tweets are replies to other tweets.

Amtrak has also gained about 74 followers a day over the past two months.

Amtrak had its best month for ridership in history in July 2013, but the loss-making rail service continually battles to stay running.

Making the train service cool among a young social demographic would be an unexpected turnaround for the company.

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