Skip to Main Content

Sometimes it only takes one social media post to change everything. It’s easy to forget that at times when your lovingly-crafted post attracts only tumbleweeds, but there are genuinely times when one post can open doors. It happened to me and my son this summer – and those doors were tram doors.

I’ve written about my son Nate before and how being autistic has shaped his life and the lives of the rest of our family. One aspect of autism that is well-documented is how passionately autistic people can get into their hobbies and interests and for my son right now his interest is trams.

One day a few months ago he wanted to go on a tram journey on Manchester’s Metrolink so that he could film it and put it on his YouTube channel. So, we did, and he filmed the journey from MediaCity to Cornbrook.

When we got home, he got to work editing the video, adding music and titles and uploaded it. He always keeps an eye on the metrics, so I decided the next morning that I’d share the video on LinkedIn. I thought a few people who I’m connected with (especially colleagues at Social and other people I’ve worked with) would be kind enough to have a look.

Little did I know then that, about six weeks later, my son would be driving a real tram in the real Metrolink workshop, all because of that video and that post.

The power of connections

The saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ certainly applies when it comes to LinkedIn, although on there it’s also about ‘who you know and who they know’. Shortly after I posted about my son and his video I got the first comment from Social CEO John Quinton-Barber, tagging in a former client contact who now works for Transport for Greater Manchester, suggesting that she’d love to see the video.

And she did. And she copied in a colleague, who copied in another colleague. This led to TfGM sharing the video on their social channels, which was a complete thrill for my son to see his work shared by the people in charge of transport in our region. But it didn’t stop there.

As the number of people who had seen the post rose and so did the number of very kind comments, staff from the Metrolink itself started to join in and two of them made the incredible offer for myself and Nate to go and visit their two depots during the school holidays so he could see behind the scenes.

I think I’ll always remember his face when I told him that news. Think Charlie Bucket when he found the Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. For him, this was the same level of excitement.

But even if that hadn’t happened, it was still a thrill for him to check the analytics with me every day, seeing how many people from TfGM and Metrolink had seen the post. Of course, even more exciting was watching the view count rise and rise.

A tram trip of a lifetime

It may have taken place during the second of the UK’s big heatwaves during the summer, but the day Nate and I went to visit the two Metrolink depots is one we’ll both treasure forever. The kindness, consideration and effort that had been put in to making sure it was a special day was evident from start to finish.

Our guides for the day were two inspectors and Nate quickly formed a bond with them both, quizzing them on their knowledge of the Metrolink map on our journey (via tram of course) from one depot to the next.

At the first stop we were given a tour of the control room, seeing how the network is managed, which was fascinating, but the real highlights came at our next stop. This included a tour of the workshop, where we were shown onto a tram, he was guided to the drivers’ cabin and helped to drive us from one end of the workshop to the other and back again.

This was a lovely surprise and his absolute favourite part of the day, especially when he got to make an announcement using the tram’s internal and external PA systems, but it didn’t stop there. We finished up in the training centre where drivers are trained using a tram simulator.

He loved this as well, getting the chance to drive his virtual tram from Manchester Victoria to Deansgate-Castlefield, tooting the horn at virtual pedestrians if they dawdled on the tracks in Piccadilly Gardens, checking his mirrors and getting thoroughly into his role.

A tram driver for the future

Nate came away from the experience with an official Metrolink high vis vest and a bag of branded goodies that he treasures. Even more importantly he also has his timescale for how long he needs to wait to become a real tram driver, which is around 10 years. The countdown begins.

It’s incredible that all of this came about from just one video and one LinkedIn post. Since that post we’ve been on several more trips on the trams to record further videos. One of his videos ended up in the Manchester Evening News after he captured the driver singing Sweet Caroline to a (largely unappreciative) audience of passengers.

So, what’s the message in all of this? Follow your passions, share them with people, make connections, keep those connections and you’ll never know where it all can take you. For Nate it has taken him somewhere he could never have expected and helped him create memories he’ll always remember. And so will I.


Click below to watch the video in full: