I said this Digital Communications Index would provide surprises and SNTF is the first. The company has an impressive array of communications across a number of platforms, as I explain below. In total, so as not to keep you waiting, Algeria’s SNTF scores an impressive 10/12. Well done! Felicitations! مبروك!
In fact, before you start, why not spend a few minutes watching SNTF introduce itself:
Before I began researching I knew practically nothing about Algerian railways, but I now know its 150-year history, its plans for the future and the extent of its present operations, including huge recent investment. Crucially I also get a nice glimpse of the human side of the operation, which is something digital communications can risk missing. So, for one of the Arab countries I know least well, I’m impressed. SNTF provides a fascinating benchmark for other MENA railway companies’ communications.
Before I run through the criteria, I’ll make a note about languages. SNTF’s output is predominantly in French, with Arabic a close second. There is some English, including video commentary, but no Tamazight. However certain stations do have their names written in Tamazight, such as Tizi Ouzo here.
For more information on about this index please read more in this post
It exists so scores 1 point, plus it feels ‘alive’ so scores an extra point. SNTF Website
Yes, SNTF has a good website. Its copyright dates from 2018 so it has seemingly been relaunched quite recently. One surprise is the website is in French and I couldn’t find an Arabic version of it, although there is a full Arabic Wikipedia page. Despite that, there is plenty of Arabic on the website in announcements, blog posts, video commentaries and captions.
The website is easy-to-read and navigate, and provides useful information to corporate customers, passengers and general browsers. There are 6 main pages:
The Homepage has plenty of facts and figures, good photos and news on discounts, to encourage visitors to linger and discover more. Prospective passengers can search for trains between stations, with a full drop-down list of railway stations, and can reserve seats although there doesn’t appear to be any way to buy tickets online. This seems to be an aspiration SNTF is working to achieve.
The ‘Blog’ page is comprehensive with evidence of campaigns and videos as well as announcements, and blog posts are written in French and Arabic (often with 2 versions of the same post).
The ‘Group’ page gives corporate information but also a comprehensive history and a good map of SNTF’s extensive network.
There is a full page dedicated to the various discounts on offer for children, students, families and the elderly.
The ‘Gallery’ page illustrates examples of the rolling stock classes for various routes, such as suburban and mainline, together with sections for railway stations and infrastructure like viaducts.
The ‘Sensibilisation’ (Awareness) page tackles various problems SNTF faces such as littering, trespass, rock-throwing and other anti-social behaviour (الأعمال غير الحضارية), complete with videos (see below) and the terms of the relevant laws that can be brought to bear against offenders.
Yes, there’s a functioning app for Android, so score 1 point.
SNTF has an app for Android available to download from the Google Play site. I use Apple/IOS so can’t personally download and explore the app but I can read the capabilities and the user reviews here (in English). If anyone uses the app please let me know. It looks effective in 2020 following problems in previous years, and has good reviews from earlier this year that show it’s working effectively.
No, I couldn’t find online purchasing facilities on either the website or app.
Yes, there is living running on the SNTF app so score 1 point. This is for Android users only.
It looks like SNTF set up its Twitter account (@sntf_officiel) in 2017 and it only lasted about a year before becoming dormant in 2018. So I can’t award any points for the Twitter account with just 44 Tweets and 168 Followers. But if your customers aren’t there, why expend precious resources on it?
Engaging and current, so score 1 point.
The Facebook account is much healthier than Twitter in English, French and Arabic, and it has about 60,000 followers. It contains regular messaging for SNTF’s regular campaigns plus greetings for Ramadan and for Eid, and for information about the Covid-19 pandemic. There is plenty of engagement for the posts in likes and comments. Read more here.
SNTF has a healthy YouTube channel (here), so score 1 point.
SNTF’s YouTube channel has over 2000 subscribers and 26 videos made in the past 2 years. There are a mixture of information and educational videos, films to announce new investment and new trains, and still photo montages. The videos are made to a high standard and I particularly enjoyed the two videos I’ve embedded on this page: the 5-minute tour of SNTF’s activities at the beginning and the 5-minute warnings against anti-social behaviour. While I prefer the Arabic and French commentaries because they sound more natural, I’ve posted the (boxy) English commentary version here for obvious reasons. The anti-social behaviour video has no commentary and speaks for itself really.
SNTF has an Instagram account that is fairly up-to-date so score 1 point
Yes, I subscribed via the website so score 1 point.
I’ll update this section according to what kind of newsletter SNTF send me in the future.
Yes, so score 1 point.
There is clear evidence of multiple campaigns for marketing and information. I’ve mentioned some of these as I’ve passed other sections. For instance there’s the campaign against anti-social behaviour (see the video). There’s the classic marking of Ramadan and Eid. Currently there is a campaign to explain the changing regulations during the Covid-19 pandemic. The campaigns feature more heavily on Facebook than on the website.
On balance, yes, so score 1 point.
There isn’t evidence of a person sitting in a control room chatting with people via social media, such as you get with other railway companies. However, SNTF’s digital output seems human rather than programmatic. You know people are there behind the scenes putting the creative effort into making these communications. The output isn’t anonymous or simply programmatic stuff. There are also comments (and emojis) on Google Play, YouTube and Facebook on all the output, although no clear responses from SNTF employees that I can see. For this reason, on balance I’ll give the point, because the overall mix of SNTF’s digital communications is interesting, useful and positive.