The Union Street Guest House, Stupidity, and Your Event Social Media

Social media is a fickle little wanker. One day it loves you; the next day, you are no better than a bug on a windshield. Watching what happens to some companies is a lot like having a front-row seat to “Divorce Wars”… mean, nasty, and vile.

I am never really surprised when social media explodes with the tale of some company doing something silly on social and yesterday’s little eruption about the Union Street Guest House, a nice-looking hotel property in Hudson, NY, was no exception. They fucked up. Bad.

Apparently, USGH (their own little acronym) has (had) a little clause in their event/wedding contracts that said that if any of your attendees bitched, complained, spoke ill of, ranted, or even whispered something negative about USGH on any social media platform, they would charge you $500 per instance of said infraction. How in the flippity shitsnizzle did they think that this was going to go unnoticed is beyond me

Here is the gist of it (from the contract via one of the 800 sites that shared it yesterday):

If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500. fine for each negative review.

What a bunch of old-timey, grumpy ass-hats is what I am thinking. What moron thinks this shit up and says to themselves, “man, what a great idea.”

Suppose the person responsible for this nonsense had ever bothered to read any ol article, book, blog post, smoke signal, or stone carving about social media. In that case, they might have saved themselves from the SOCIAL MEDIA backlash that is now kicking their asses up one side of the internet and down the other. Trying to BULLY your way into positive reviews NEVER works. Heck, they could have asked me, I would have told them…

This post is about you and your event marketing

But this post isn’t about them; it is about you. If you want to read about the social media train wreck that is the USGH, I would suggest this article or maybe this one, or perhaps go look at their Yelp page where they are now getting chewed a new one… Really, it is freaking epic. Go ahead and check it out… we can hang a minute.

OK, back to you and your event… Social media is a two-way conversation with people that you may or may not know. Attendees and sponsors, your members, and the public. Some of them will like you, and some of them will not like you. Most of them will be nice to you, and a few will be mean. How you react will say a lot about your conference, your event, your organization, or your association.

Be nice even when people are not nice to you. What you will find is that the typical complaint is from a real person who is angry, frustrated, and wants to exact some manner of revenge on someone (you) that they think has done them wrong. 99.2% of the time, if you acknowledge the complaint and offer a solution, the situation can be turned into a positive experience that plays out in front of an audience of thousands. You may not be a hero, but you certainly will not be a villain.

For the other .8%, where you think that the negativity is coming from some troll looking to screw with your day, you are probably correct. Just hit them with the facts and then let it die. Everything on the internet fades away with time… well, almost everything.

But what if they are right

Maybe the complainers are on to something. If your conference is in full swing and 100 people are complaining on Twitter that you are too cheap to buy more coffee for the break…. maybe you should check and see if you are out of coffee. If 100 people are complaining that the fish tasted terrible… find out why; perhaps it is yucky. And for heaven’s sake, if you are a business in the event industry that gets Yelp reviews and 100 people are complaining that your front office staff is rude, you might want to have a chat with the ding-dongs that answer the phone because there might be something to the pissiness of the posters.

I feel bad for the staff of the Union Street Guest House. I am sure that they work hard to keep their guests happy and I am sure that they are not part of the crack legal team that put together the now famous “social complaining clause,” but they are the ones that will suffer the most because this hotel is now stained. Stained bad. Although most everyday complaints fade from the internets, the epic shit does not and this episode will now be in the Googleverse forever and anytime some meeting planner or wedding planner is looking at this hotel and they Google the name, this is going to show up. Bummer.

By trying to bully their way into avoiding internet negativity, the hotel actually created a negative firestorm that is still raging across the internet landscape and has even made it to the Washington Post. Someone is getting fired, I think.

The moral is this

Do not try and force social media compliance, it will not work. Instead, work to provide a great guest/attendee experience and deal with the crap as it comes. That is all you need to do.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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