When brands defend

Madison venues, event organizers and other companies: Getting all testy on social media is never a good look.

Madison venues, event organizers and other companies: Getting all testy on social media is never a good look.


Photo by Andrew Mager/Flick

Photo by Andrew Mager/Flick

Last month, we found out that the official World’s Largest Brat Fest Twitter account had blocked the Tone Madison Twitter account. I just checked—we’re still blocked. I’m not even sure when it happened or what the last straw was—certainly no one from Brat Fest contacted us after possible offending acts such as the articles we ran blatantly mocking the event in 2014 and again in 2015, and it’s not as if we were aggressively harassing them on Twitter. Anyways, we took a screenshot and posted it on our own social-media accounts, to a large and delighted reception the likes of which we rarely get for our actual stories, because algorithms and money and stuff. Mostly I just thought the whole thing was weird and funny, but I also didn’t really see the point of blocking us. Maybe that was just someone’s way of venting their displeasure at our coverage.

I find it fascinating when the official accounts for events/venues/companies/brands/whatever show any kind of distress or friction. These moments are always a bit self-defeating, and when you add that Madison small-town-ish twist they become even more insular and absurd. And I’m not talking about organizations in Madison that are just a little clumsy with social media (oh, the epic list I could compile for that if I wanted to), I’m talking “branded” accounts that occasionally feel the need to air a grievance, to ill-advisedly break up the flow of lighthearted promotional gimmicks. And sometimes it happens with places that I just assumed would be more savvy, places with lots of followers and/or respected names to live up to.

Case in point, I’ve definitely managed to torment whoever it is that runs Sundance Cinemas Madison’s social accounts. (If you are this person, I will totally buy you a beer. Send me a picture of yourself with today’s Twitter or something as proof.) Back in January, the theater introduced mac-n-cheese bites to its menu, in addition to a lot of other janky attributes, and we joked on Facebook that they would make the theaters smell like old fryer grease. Probably unnecessary, but harmless. Shortly after, the theater responded, not even on Facebook but on Twitter, which doesn’t even make sense, and not even referencing our post, so that the Tweet surely confused most people who saw it:

It’s ok, we don’t expect everyone to be a fan of our Mac N Cheese bites, but they do not make our theaters smell like “Old Fryer Grease.”
— Sundance Madison (@sundancemadison) January 16, 2015

I still don’t know why “’Old Fryer Grease’” is capitalized. It still makes me laugh. But the most prominent feature of this Tweet is how sincerely hurt it sounds. It’s not even a “joshin’ back at ya” kind of reply. I mean, I have no quarrel with mac-n-cheese bites, I’m just fascinated by how Sundance wants to have it both ways, being the upscale indie-cinema chain but also doing rinky-dink stuff like this. (This is the same establishment that let its Twitter account go dormant for three months, then resurfaced with a chipper cry of “Hello, Twitter World!”) But the point is, there are a lot of gripes on the Internet—some of them playful and some just plain boorish—and most of them are not worth taking up in a public setting.

Case in point, the reviews section of hard-to-explain bowling place turned EDM club Segredo’s Facebook page. Spelunking through the negative reviews to see the replies from the Segredo account is far more entertaining than I would like to admit. Some the replies to negative reviews—which are in the minority on the page, so whatever—are LONG and silly and just make people angrier. Sometimes the account even asks people to delete their negative reviews. I mean, just…what is to be gained? You’re arguing with a bunch of 22-year-olds who paid to go to Segredo. Even the owners and operators of Segredo should know better.

Even more bizarre than engaging this way with negative reviews: Using your venue’s official FB account to respond to a post on the personal FB page of someone you’ve banned. This happened when Art Paul Schlosser announced his Facebook friends that he’d been banned from the Comedy Club on State. The Comedy Club account chimed in on the thread, saying “People enjoy your music Art, but hearing it for hours as they stand in line to see another show, draws complaints. The reason you were asked to not come back is due to the scene you caused while yelling at our staff more than once.” Again, why not just step back? But at least they’ve kind of made nice since:

@artpaulrocks @ToneMSN We wish him the best!
— Comedy Club on State (@ComedyOnState) June 11, 2015

But a recent one that I really didn’t see coming was from the Majestic Madison Facebook account. The Majestic’s social-media presence has all the elegant subtlety of, say, the Vegas strip, but it’s certainly effective and savvy. Last month, after a huge buildup, the Majestic and Frank Productions announced an October 2 show by The Avett Brothers at Breese Stevens Field. The announcement got good media coverage and a big response—a week later, tickets went on sale and sold out in a flash. This being the Internet, some people complained at the time of the announcement. Now, the promoters and local media partners did build us up to this particular show announcement up like it was the second coming, and Madison concert promoters in general are kind of overdoing it with the big-question-mark-show-announcement teases lately. But if your only comment on a show announcement is “excuse me, WHO??” then seriously just go away. Instead of just basking in the excitement, the Majestic’s FB page posted the following:


I get sarcasm and all, but this—like Sundance taking on its nemesis Old Fryer Grease—just strikes a needlessly defensive, victimized tone. The Majestic account even went on to argue with people who responded to the post (it looks like it’s since been taken down). It’s just dissonant coming from a growing company that knows how to put on events that excite people and knows how to market the living piss out of itself and just generally is good at projecting an image of success.

Now, part of me can kind of sympathize. When someone’s Mad At You On The Internet, it’s tempting to feel defensive or even to feel a sense of injustice. If your job is already a bit thankless and hard—and I can get how it is from people who do all the work behind the scenes and take on a financial risk to bring shows to town—nasty or dismissive comments can really start to sound louder than all the other reactions you’re getting. Having put opinions about stuff on the Internet for years I’m kind of inured to the irrationality and bile, for the most part. You just have to let it go sometimes—you can’t fix it all, and the person who’s mad at you doesn’t have all that much time or energy to devote to being mad at you unless they’re really out of their tree. It’s crappy but you don’t help yourself by getting wrapped up in it. If you’re feeling picked on on the Internet, just get away from your screens, take a deep breath and remind yourself of the things you did right that day and the positive responses you got. You’re entitled to that basic level of self-care. Yes, even if you run a dippy Facebook page. Not that social-media marketing is all that important in the scheme of things, but when you let your emotions get the better of you, you end up projecting an image of Madison that no one wants to see.

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