Someone on Amtrak’s social media team might be on the fast track to a promotion. A one-word tweet from the rail service’s official Twitter account on Thursday has taken off faster than a super speedy Shinkansen

“Trains,” the tweet says simply

Four hours after the account tweeted the minimalist message, it had been retweeted upward of 14,000 times and gotten almost 85,000 likes and over 1,400 comments, including responses from multiple brands sharing their own one-word descriptors. 

“News,” The Washington Post tweeted. “Radio,” wrote NPR. Marriott Bonvoy chimed in with “hotels,” while Intuit Mailchimp went with an on-point “emails,” and NASA opted for a sleeper: “universe.”  

CNET got on track with the trend too: “tech.” As did CNET Cars: “cars.”  

Amtrak had a short-winded response — “trains” — to a request for comment about the tweet, which has also drawn responses from railway fans sharing lovely views snapped from train windows, plus lots of snark and puns: “YES. Real trains. With wires. Electric!” “This tracks,” several people noted of the meme-generating tweet. 

Amtrak joins Wendy’s and others as just the latest seemingly old-school, more traditional company to use social media to twist the perception of itself through bizarre posts that go viral and both charm and annoy the media masses. But perhaps none has been as succinct as Amtrak’s. As my CNET colleague Queenie Wong details here, companies try every trick, stunt or ploy they can conjure up to capture eyes online, sometimes with mixed results. 

“This went from cute, quirky tweet to stupid Brand Twitter meme in record time,” one Tweeter wrote of the ubiquitous one-word format spurred by Amtrak. “I hate it here.”

Amtrak provides long-distance and inter-city rail service to 46 of the 48 contiguous US states and to nine cities in Canada. Because this is the internet we’re talking about here, the Amtrak tweet has also become occasion for Twitter users to respond not only with jokes, but complaints — about Amtrak specifically and mass transit in the US compared with that of Europe or Japan more generally. 

This whole thing has the potential to go off the rails very, very quickly. 

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