Railroad Social Media Comparison
All four of these railway companies use a range of social media platforms (primarily Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn) to communicate brand messages to the world. In each case, their messaging is extremely consistent and indeed often identical across platforms. BNSF and Norfolk Southern have a particular penchant for posting behind the scenes videos, while CSX and Union Pacific focus more on safety in their social media messaging. All four companies employ outside advertising agencies, but also have in-house marketing teams who seem to generally handle the bulk of day to day social media posting, though precisely how the workload is divided between the companies and the ad agencies they employ remains unclear. All of these findings are detailed in the attached spreadsheet.
social media engagement
Union Pacific has the most Twitter followers of the group with 78,973, followed by CSX Transportation which has 42,000, then BNSF with 34,300, and Norfolk Southern comes last with only 38,700.
Norfolk Southern leads the pack in terms of Facebook likes with 185,154, followed by CSX with 158,400, then Union Pacific with 126,854, and finally BNSF has 103,429.
Norfolk Southern again leads in Instagram followers with 26,200, followed by Union Pacific with 25,100, then CSX with 20,300, and finally BNSF has the fewest Instagram followers with 19,400.
Union Pacific has the most LinkedIn followers with 78,973, followed closely by BNSF with 75,881, then CXS with 61,666, and Norforlk Southern with 36,608.
BNSF employs GCG marketing, CSX employs both Mullen Lowe and the Shepherd Agency, Union Pacific employs Bailey Lauderman, and Norfolk Southern employs Write Well Media. Each of these companies also have in house marketing teams, and in the spreadsheet I provide more detail about the collaboration between the in-house teams and the outside agencies, which differ from case to case. However, the most likely set up in most cases seems to be that the outside agencies provide advice, while in house teams actually do the day to day managing of the company's social media accounts.
Based on the evidence from levels of social media engagement, none of the four companies emerge as clearly dominant. However, we can discern some differences - Norfolk Southern seems to be slightly ahead of the rest in terms of general audience social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) followed closely by Union Pacific, then CSX, and finally BNSF. However, all four are fairly similar in their levels of engagement. On LinkedIn, which I have chosen to address separately because it is concerned with a specific audience (that is, professionals in the field) Union Pacific is the clear leader, followed by BNSF and CSX, with Norfolk Southern coming last. All of the research underpinning this brief is given and explained in greater detail in the attached spreadsheet.