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On Valentine’s Day (February 14, i.e., today), brands want the same thing many couples hope for: love that leads to engagement! How do you get both? Let’s take a look at Amtrak’s latest Valentine’s Day campaign for some valuable lessons.

Remember Your History

Relationships thrive when you can enjoy looking back on the good times together. For brands that means using social media audits and other historical data to help you prepare for the present.

Amtrak, for instance, knows a few things about their Valentine’s Day ridership history. Since 2010:

  • Amtrak has had more than 7.2 million passengers during Valentine’s Day week, for an average of 806,708 customers per year
  • The busiest day of the week during Valentine’s Day has always been Friday
  • On average, Amtrak has had 75,911 customers ride its trains on Valentine’s Day since 2010, with 90,200 specific to the Thursday of the week
  • More people travel the day after Valentine’s Day (sum/average 762,897 customers/84,766 customers) than the day of (sum/average 683,196 customers/75,911 customers) and day before (sum/average 688,079 customers/76,453 customers)
  • The busiest travel day during Valentine’s Day week has been the Friday following a Thursday Valentine’s Day (117,815 customers) – and this year, Valentine’s Day is on a Thursday

Given this, it makes sense to plan something special to promote Valentine’s Day travel this year in particular.

More Is More When It Comes to Love

Even when it’s not Valentine’s Day, sentiment is one of the most important metrics you can follow as a brand. Amtrak – like many brands in the travel industry – sees a fair bit of negative sentiment in the mix because social is where people on-the-go complain when things go wrong.

Looking at Attributes within Sentiment Drivers helps you understand where problem areas lie. Delays are a big bone of contention with passengers complaining, but it’s not all bad. Looking to Emotions, there’s a lot of love for Amtrak too:

To help affirm and build on that love, Amtrak started a new campaign this February, offering Valentines to share online – or even print – to help spread the love, along with brand awareness.

It’s a super cute idea – but has it resulted in the engagement they were hoping for? Not quite, at least at press time. What could they have done differently?

Find Partners in Passion

Any campaign – especially something as short-term as Valentine’s Day – could benefit from influencers helping to spread the word. Amtrak used the hashtag #AmtrakLove on a handful of posts – but not consistently enough for it to take off, which feels like a missed opportunity. Influencers could also have helped it get out there.

In addition to influencers, keeping tabs on trending conversations is always smart. Whatever you hope your campaign will do, you can’t ignore what’s actually happening with your audience. For example, a lot of social users were interacting with posts sharing sightings of an interaction between Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Though the brand did retweet, was that enough? Perhaps this could have been a great moment to callback the popular Obama/Biden memes, reinvented in some way for this new duo – which might have given the posts even more traction.

Or perhaps they know their audience wouldn’t want them to touch on anything political – even comedically. That’s the real trick when it comes to social engagement: understanding what your audience wants, and delivering that. We’re not attempting to armchair quarterback – just pointing out different approaches for brands to consider as you assess the insights specific to you.

Finally, be sure you cultivate passion wherever it exists – not just where you’re used to looking. Most of the Amtrak conversation is happening on Twitter, but there’s a fair amount happening on Reddit too, as well as on blogs and travel forums:

If Amtrak’s Valentine’s Day content isn’t breaking through on these channels, what is?

As you assess such things for your brand, is there an audience segment you’ve failed to recognize? Be sure you’re not leaving potential customers in the lurch because you’re so focused on the channels you think matter most. Let social data lead your decision-making.

Keep Analyzing to Stay on the Right Track

Valentine’s Day can be hit or miss – both in real life, and for brands on social. It’s only one day, and the lead-up isn’t always as important as the day itself.

For Amtrak, for example, the real promo starts today, by way of a BOGO sale on tickets over the next four days.  Now – for them and for all brands – it’s about following in real-time, course correcting, dealing with customer service issues, etc.

This time next year, they’ll have another piece of history to draw on as they try to spread the love. And so will you.

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