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Festival Social Failure Strikes Again: Lessons to be Avoided from Bloc.

Following Marie’s post last week on the handling of the Isle of Wight festival, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the latest British festival crisis – the shut-down of electronic music festival, Bloc.

I turned up on Friday with all the other hopefuls to London’s new venue, the Pleasure Gardens. For anyone who’s followed news of the Twitter trending Bloc festival, you’ll know that the causes are still a bit of a mystery, but that the event was shut down on the first night due to overcrowding. There’s plenty of speculation about who is to blame, and just where they went wrong, but the lion’s share of all anger on Twitter is of course being pointed at the Bloc team.

I marvelled on two counts at the power of social media this weekend. Firstly, on how quickly and fervently the #bloc bashing picked up on Twitter – I myself was glued. 15,000 people with nothing to do at least felt connected in their anger if not their fun. But what really stood out was that Bloc didn’t get involved. In fact, even though the tirade started early, as 1000s couldn’t even get into the venue, the Bloc team continued to share tweets of those lucky few who had made it inside and were having a great time. And when disaster struck, despite making a sensible decision to close shop and protect their visitors, they went into radio silence. Isle of Wight all over again.

Throughout Saturday, the Bloc team was trashed on Twitter and their Facebook page destroyed with abuse. If they had joined the conversation they might have a) shown that they cared and b) been humanised, deterring a level of abuse (Bloc did have its more reasoned defences on Twitter and Facebook too). Of course, failures like this require investigation and it would be foolish to rush into making an official statement. But in face of failure, silence is one of the worst stances to take on Twitter. My experience of speaking with some of the most forward-thinking companies on social media is that you have to face crises head-on, and that a bit of perseverance does ultimately pay off. You have to be a social, human brand on platforms like Twitter. I don’t envy the Bloc organisers this week, but they should have spoken up, rather than sit by and hope that the anger would burn out. Shouts about #greedy Bloc planners might have been allayed had people heard something sympathetic from those involved.

On the positive side this weekend, acts who were set to play on the Saturday night held a Twitter rally to put on a free alternative for restless Bloc ticket holders. And they pulled it off impressively; the streets of Peckham were filled with 1000s of alternative-festival goers to a salvaged #nonbloc night, with plans made and news spread solely through Twitter in less than 24 hours.

So it seems that non-corporates actually have something to learn from how many companies are managing social media. The only way out of a PR disaster is to face it head on, rather than bury your head in the sand. Like any business today, how Bloc interacts with the Twitter community over the coming days could well decide its future.

Did you follow the #bloc conversation on Twitter? What are your experiences/views on facing a PR crisis through social media? We’re interested to hear your opinions in the comments below.

Got any suggestions for what you’d like to hear from us? Send your thoughts to marie@conversocial.com, or @Conversocial. We’re always looking for new ideas.

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