Planes, trains and social media

Publication Type


Year Completed



Set in 2016, the case explores the role of social media in the public transportation sector. It highlights how social media has emerged to be a dominant platform offering both opportunities and challenges for organisations. SMRT, a mass service provider in Singapore, counted amongst the best in the world was struggling to manage consumer expectations in face of a series of train breakdowns and disruptions that had seriously tarnished the company's reputation.

The company had a presence on social media; however it largely relied on traditional media in its communication strategy. At the times of crisis, the inability of the traditional media to provide an interactive platform and live updates had often resulted in disgruntled customers. Lack of real- time engagement with the commuters had widened the chasm between their expectations and perceived performance of the transport system negating the painstaking technical and operational improvements done by SMRT over time to provide a more reliable service.

Could SMRT better leverage social media in effectively engaging with riders during crises and otherwise? The case showcases the examples of other public transportation firms - KLM and South West Trains that have been successful in this endeavour. Could their social media experiences be applied to SMRT?

Through this case, students will gain an understanding of the multi-dimensional impact of social media on an organisation. They will be able to analyse and compare its impact when adopted comprehensively versus a piece-meal approach. Students will also learn about the essential elements of an effective social media strategy and be able to assess the gap between an organization's social media goals and its resource allocation for the same. The case will help students to learn about the evolution of social media and evaluate its effectiveness versus that of traditional media especially in the services domain.


Social media, communication strategy, consumer expectations, consumer service, online engagement, service quality


Marketing | Social Media | Technology and Innovation

Research Areas


Data Source

Field Research



Geographic Coverage


Temporal Coverage


Education Level

Executive Education; Postgraduate; Undergraduate


Singapore Management University

Case ID



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