How @runDisney Won at Social Media Without Doing Anything #WDWMarathonMeetup #Nope

If you’re not a member of one of the several FaceBook Disney-centric running clubs, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the frenzy, but it was there this week. A straight-up, rabid, fan-girl explosion, replete with heart palpitations, sweaty palms and in-fighting based on ‘fairness’ and perceived entitlement.

There was heavy speculation that runDisney would announce one of their much ballyhooed and well-loved Tweet-Up Meet-Ups taking place during Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend next week. The expectation was solid; after all, Marathon Weekend is the de facto flagship race in runDisney’s calendar, and the Meet-Ups have regularly taken place at most races over the last several years.

When the announcement didn’t come on Thursday, well, that led runDisney fans to assume, expect, know that it would be made on Friday.

Web-browsers were set to auto-refresh, Twitter alerts were set for runDisney tweets and the runDisney fan-world sat on the edge of it’s seat for the better part of the day, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

A handful of people took it upon themselves to Tweet runDisney, demanding some sort of relief. “WHERE IS OUR MEET UP ANNOUNCEMENT!?”

Heck, I even speculated on the event:

A few brave souls on the various groups floated the idea that maybe there wouldn’t be a Meet Up this year.

Unheard of! Impossible!

Except that it wasn’t unheard of, nor was it impossible. Late in the afternoon, Amanda Tinney, a blogger with runDisney sources put up a post announcing that there would be no Meet Up this year. This was shortly followed by another by Karla Bruning, runDisney insider extraordinaire.

It’s not happening – and that’s… OK.

People were upset, angry that they’d wasted hours hitting refresh on a web page, only to come up empty handed (except for the lucky handful who were fast enough to RSVP for the WDW Food Truck Meet Up – awesome!). I understand being frustrated if the only thing you accomplished for the day was to crash a website extensively through out the day (I really wouldn’t have wanted to be an IT guy/gal at the Disney Parks Blog yesterday).

This is really where I start to have a problem, though. People were angry at runDisney for their own assumptions and behaviours. They felt that runDisney owed them an announcement that the Meet Up would not be happening so they wouldn’t waste their time stalking the blog.

Now, I’m no marketing genius, but I’m pretty sure that advertising something you’re NOT doing isn’t the best kind of PR you can put out there. Imagine runDisney sending a Tweet to all 44,000 of their followers saying “We’re not doing a Meet Up this year at Marathon Week”. Now think about how many of those 44,000 actually knew about the Meet Up in the first place? What, 2 – 3%? That leaves the rest of the followers all of a sudden feeling like they’re being denied something. It doesn’t make sense, especially from a Disney (no such thing as bad news) Corporation. And frankly, no matter what day they might have attempted the Meet Up, it would have been met with angst and frustration because a) it excluded Dopey runners, b) it excluded late arrivals to Orlando or c) because no-one is ever happy.

Minnie and Me, Last Year's WDW Marathon MeetUp
Minnie and Me, Last Year’s WDW Marathon MeetUp

What runDisney gained, however, was a lot of social media presence with #WDWMarathonMeetup blowing up a bit without there even being a Meet Up, and a lot of traffic to the Disney Parks blog and the runDisney Blog – which was handy, because they had an important announcement regarding a time change to the Kids’ Races at Tink Weekend.

Was it a calculated effort to keep people glued to the Twitter account and/or Blog? I doubt it. I don’t think it was a deliberate manipulation on their part, and I do think they made an effort to ease the tension by reaching out to some bloggers to give them the go ahead to release the information when the demanding tweets started appearing.

With a brand new distance this year (Minnie Mouse 10K) and a brand new Challenge this year (Dopey Challenge) a different corral system and an expanded Expo, runDisney is much better served this year focussing on the events (and the quirks they each hold) that affect all of the thousands of runners over the perks granted to a lucky couple dozen. And I, for one, am looking forward to running (almost) every step of it.

If you were runDisney, how would you have handled the Meet Up Kerfuffle?