The harsh and severe weather conditions in Sweden, with continuing snowfall and temperatures below 5 degrees Fahrenheit, are making Swedish social media channels to boil.

The horror stories of people’ve been let off at freezing empty stations without toilets and no information what so ever on connecting trains, as trains’ve been stuck for 13 hours overnight with no toilets, food or beverage, have flooded the media.

Last weekend was particularly troublesome, and whereas SJ, Swedish national railway company, has been failing throughout the winter to get the travellers to their destinations, properly communicate disturbances, as well as to compensate delays, Swedish online movie startup Headweb, rushed to comfort the upset travellers.

On Sunday afternoon it posted an offering via its blog, Facebook and Twitter: Send a picture of your train ticket in exchange to one free rental movie.

The retweeting and blogging took off, and in just couple of hours more than 300 delayed and disappointed travelleres had received a free online rental movie. Happy replies and reports from people watching movies while stuck on the trains, making their journeys more bearable, kept pouring in.

Now, the biggest parody in the story lies in the fact that the Twitter account of SJ is “open” only weekdays between 9 am to 4 pm. At the times like these the last thing a disteressed weekend traveller needs is to be greeted on Twitter with: “Logging off, have a nice weekend and good luck with the snowstorm”.

Sadly, even the entire SJ website was down for couple of hours during the rush hours on Sunday, leaving a busy phone line as the only source for information. To have alternative communication channels such as a blog, Facebook and Twitter account, or SMS service, if ones service fails, offline or online, would tremendously help out the situation and increase customer satisfaction. At the moment I can count up to five active Facebook groups with dissatisfied SJ customers compared to SJ’s own inactive Facebook page with 12 fans.

Not every transportation company, or for that matter any company, has come as far as Alaska Airlines, hence to avoid the worst backlashes and pitfalls when new to social media, such as SJ, one needs to be committed to integrate social media as a natural part of the business. There is really no such thing as opening hours” in social media.

Although Headweb didn’t get the travellers sooner to their destinations, it eased their pain and frustration offering compassion and a moment of recreation, i.e. what any company or a person should do when a fellow citizen is in need. An example of true brand building and social media marketing at the cost of – listening and caring.

Stand-up comedians have a saying when going on stage, which I think translates particularly well into social media: “Either you kill, or you get killed”. Either you build trust, or you just might lose it forever.

More reading onĀ Headweb and Nordic online movie startup scene.

Paula is online strategist and startup evangelist. She blogs at and here at
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Drop her email at paula.marttila[at]gmail[dot]com

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Paula Marttila

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