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Kolumbus: Norway’s Social Bus Network

In Norway on June 18, 2011 by Erika S. Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

In 2007, buses transported more than 290 million passengers over a staggering 2.3 billion miles in Norway. With buses being a primary source of transportation, it didn’t take long for a transit company to consider reinventing the rather boring experience of public transportation. Kolumbus, a leading transit provider that covers over 2,800 routes in Rogaland County, has set out to socialize the mass transit experience through its adoption of quick response “QR” code technology.

Before we get started, here’s a little nugget of information about QR codes: Born in Japan way back in 1994, QR codes are those robotic-looking, two-dimensional barcodes supported by smart phones; upon being scanned, the code redirects the user to a company’s website and displays information. While Japan uses them extensively in almost every industry, it has taken nearly two decades for QR codes to invade the West.

Now back to Norway…

Kolumbus recently launched a campaign aimed at providing the most accurate bus arrival and departure information by embedding an estimated 4,500 QR codes at over 1,200 bus stations across Norway. The codes allow passengers with smart phones to track buses in real-time using geospatial technology. With millions of people relying on public transportation for their day-to-day activities, QR codes could prove to be invaluable when it comes to time management, and may become an essential part of life in Norway. But Kolumbus didn’t stop there…

The transit company teamed up with Tales of Things, a research project exploring social memory in the Internet age, to create a location-based social network with elements of foursquare and Facebook. Here’s basically how it works: You’re at a bus station waiting for your bus to arrive, you scan the QR code posted at the station to check for the exact arrival time and notice you have a few minutes to spare. You then log on to Tales of Things to peruse previous passengers’ messages, pictures, tips, stories, etc. that they posted while waiting in the same spot, which may or may not entice you to chime in and begin sharing also. Just think, you can leave a sweet message for a loved one or embark on a scavenger hunt with friends! Oh, and because each QR code is unique to its location, each message, picture, tip, story, etc. provides an endless adventure and an unprecedented way to socialize in a public transportation setting. Pretty neat, right?

Integrating the underutilized QR code technology while promoting socialization on public transit systems via social media is truly a revolutionary and unorthodox approach to social media marketing. Although some may find it pointless, I find this a rather fascinating way to get people interested in connecting with those who are sharing the same journey as them.


Passenger shares his bus ride in Norway.

For marketers hoping to create buzz for a brand via social media, incorporating relevant issues of society (time management, in this case) can help ignite a newfound interest in the brand and get people engaged in exciting new ways — isn’t that what every company wants?

This Norwegian model is one that can be replicated a thousand times over across the world; which has me wondering: why did it take so long for someone to promote the interconnectedness of public transportation? Just imagine this Norwegian approach to public transit in Washington, D.C.! Hey, I’m even thinking this could inspire people to be friendlier! I mean, Norway is considered the happiest country on earth. We can clearly learn a thing or two from the Norwegians! I have hope for you, D.C.! Anything is possible!

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2 Responses to “Kolumbus: Norway’s Social Bus Network”

  1. Very interesting topic. People would love this in the US!

  2. What a great find for a topic to write about! Your post offered a great example of taking a campaign like this and giving it the chance to spread to other places by publicizing its elements and why it works.

    For me, I really liked everything about this post except the last paragraph. Part of the trick with a great post is knowing when to end it. At the point where you shared the insight that incorporating a “relevant issue of society” such as time management can help people get engaged in a brand … you were done. I saw your insight there and how you were thinking more deeply about this case study instead of just restating what you found. You really didn’t need that last paragraph and in fact some of what you shared there was actually confusing. The link between some of the “social memory” that this campaign seems to offer and happiness or creating a happy country didn’t seem clear. There may be a link, but when you share secondary conclusions like this, you force yourself to now have to explain and define them and prove why you think the way you do.

    The lesson here is that you should make sure to think about all the elements of your post and what the main point is that you are making. As much as you can, try to be unforgiving in what you cut out. Generally speaking, if you can spend a bit more time to cut down what you end up sharing – the end result will usually be a much stronger post. (5)

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