How Amtrak's Viral One-Word Tweet Inspired a Huge Twitter Trend

Amtrak's bizarre tweet inspired a lot of people on social media.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
2 min read

Amtrak traffics in trains, a tweet from the company reminded us on Thursday. 

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Someone on Amtrak's social media team could be on the fast track to a promotion. An inspired one-word tweet from the train company's Twitter account took off faster than a super speedy Shinkansen, inspiring a Twitter trend toward extreme brevity.
"Trains," the tweet says simply

Less than 24 hours after the account tweeted the minimalist message, it had been retweeted upward of 25,000 times and gotten almost 168,000 likes and over 2,500 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."  

President Joe Biden's official Twitter account joined in with "democracy," and 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, Amtrak's one-word tweet has become occasion for Twitter users to respond not only with jokes, but complaints -- about Amtrak specifically, and more generally about mass transit in the US compared with that of Europe or Japan. 

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