Monday, December 5, 2011

RAM Racing: How NOT to run a social media page

This past weekend I took part in the inaugural Washington, DC Hot Chocolate 15K/5K operated by RAM Racing.  From those who took part, it goes without saying, the entire event was a complete disaster.  That aside, I'm not here to talk about what made this event unsuccessful, but rather, what made this event fail from a social media standpoint.

As many others do, people look to a company Facebook page for event related information, as well as for any immediate updates that are critical for people to know on raceday.  The Facebook page for the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K failed on many levels.  The page itself was bombarded with hundreds of negative comments before the race even began.  With the race even being over, the page continues to be a haven for people expressing their displeasure for how the event took place.  People hated it so much, they even went so far as to create a new Facebook page appropriately titled, "EPIC FAIL: Hot Chocolate 15K/5K." 

First off, if you plan on using a Facebook page as a means of communication, please do so.  We want information, we don't want "Fun Facts."  So let's begin!  As I made my way to National Harbor, you could tell there was something wrong right away.  The amount of traffic was unreal.  According to the Facebook page there was a severe accident that caused a major backup.  As a result, a majority of the runners were not able to make it to the race on time.  At this point, all we were told was that the race was going to be delayed 15 minutes.  Funny enough, it appears that there was no accident at all, and as it seems race directors were looking to jump on any excuse for the delay and thought that a car accident would suffice.  According to a majority of the comments I've read, there was no accident at all.  I'd take them as pretty accurate as they were written by people IN the backup.  

After hearing this, the comments began rolling in, one complaint after another.  100+ comments later, there was still NO update from race directors.  One would think that if these directors cared at all, they would make some sort of a conscious effort in informing runners that their spot in the race was not going to be jeopardized, and that they were doing their best in making sure everyone got to the starting line safely.  Unfortunately, there was nothing along those lines, but rather a page filled with complaints.  I would only imagine these people would care, seeing that no race could take place if no one was there to attend.  I'm not asking for much here, just a small little update showing us that you CARE and that you're looking out for us.  

With no updates from anyone at RAM Racing, we all of a sudden got the ONLY update of the day as to what was happening, and that was that the beginning of the race was now pushed to 8:15 to allow those in traffic to arrive.  With hundreds and hundreds of comments coming in, this is all you could muster up?  Come on now.  With the flood gates now open to complaints, there was no communication from RAM Racing for another 7 hours!  People have been training, and looking forward to this day for who knows how long, but all you could manage to type was that the race was now being pushed back.  Take a moment and address people's concerns even if you need to go through them comment by comment.  Otherwise, don't bother having a page up at all.

Now, what happened next is really what got me going.  It's one thing if no one was monitoring the Facebook page, but it's another if someone from RAM Racing is there DELETING comments, and going as far as BLOCKING people from commenting on the wall.  Here you have people clearly very upset, and all you can do is delete people's comments?  People paid $65 for a race that didn't live up to expectations and for a jacket that at best, resembled a fashionable looking poncho.

All you had to do was SAY SOMETHING.  SHOW US you actually care.  There wasn't one instance where someone from RAM Racing tried to facilitate the very hectic day for any of the participants.  And, on top of that, when they did decide to say something all they had to say was that there were "issues with today's race", and nothing more.  No apology, nothing.  No mention to the fact that they were deleting comments for whatever reason.  Even in that example, all you had to say was, sorry, if you have noticed that your comments were deleted, we do not condone any sort of profanity, and leave it at that.  I don't even know if there was profanity, but tell them they were being deleted for a reason.  Otherwise, it just looks like you were trying to cover yourselves up, and it looks incredibly sketchy.

Unfortunately, it still appears that those at RAM Racing have learned nothing.  A half hearted apology was posted on their Facebook wall, which didn't actually seem like an apology at all.  From what I calculated, the owners certainly left Saturday's event with a hefty chunk of change.  With the enormous amount of negative feedback this event received, and the number of people who displayed their displeasure, you would think that the owners at RAM Racing would maybe TRY win back their support by offering some sort of incentive for people to sign up next year, and from what it looks like, it might not even take place.  But hey, here's an idea.  Give the 20,000 racers, or whatever the number was, some sort of "I'm sorry" gift.  Give them a free shirt, give them a coupon to Melting Pot for some more CHOCOLATE fondue, give them SOMETHING.  People will like you a lot more if you do in fact show us you are deeply sorry, and would do anything to win back the support of DC.  Unfortunately, from what it seems, you are doing everything you can to make sure no one signs up for your race again.

I really understand they were hoping for this event to go without any problems, but the moment you think more about yourself than the people attending your event, that's when things go wrong.  Take a moment and imagine if you were in the runners shoes, and what you would want to hear, and how you would feel if this happened to you.  Unfortunately, some people never learn, and they pay for it later.

Before I go ahead and post this, I noticed there was an update from race director, Steve Nearman, from the Wilson Bridge Half Marathon, which not only shows some sort of thought process but also that he cares.  Hell, he didn't even take part in this weekend's race and he is already issuing a statement.  Far more than anything I saw from the people at RAM Racing.  Talk about GOOD PR!  Here is what he said:

With that said, I understand this was quite a long rant, but I open this up to all the other participants who took part in the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K this past weekend, and even to those who have taken part in previous RAM Racing events.  I'd enjoy hearing your comments, and despite all the problems that occurred, I hope everyone managed to have a great day otherwise.

~Until Next Time~



  1. I work in social media full time and ran the race this weekend, and I actually thought RAM racing did a great job on the social media front until right up until the event. in the months leading up to it they were active on Twitter and frequently tweeted at me or retweeted things I said.

    And even the day before the race they answered a question I had about exchanging jacket sizes ridiculously fast on their Facebook page. I was actually really impressed with that.

    I do agree though that it's poor form to delete comments without an explanation. This is part of the reason why every organization needs a sound comment policy that explains what is OK and what will be deleted (profanity for example.) And I do think it was a big shock to go from such quick responses to radio silence as soon as something went wrong. As customers we just needed something more.

  2. Hi Jess,

    Thanks for the comment!  I guess you could say, they weren't very well versed in crisis management.  It almost seemed like everyone was in a state of shock as to what to do next.  I do believe there is a "right" and "wrong" way to complain, and certainly don't condone the use of any profanity or threatening language, but the fact that there was no explanation as to why comments were being deleted comes across as incredibly sketchy.  A simple statement explaining the situation would have worked, but unfortunately there was nothing.

    I must say, most of my frustration was geared towards the Facebook page on the day of the event, as well as what happened after.  Looking back, they did do a good job with engaging with fans prior to the event taking place, but I only hoped that they would have taken that approach in answering the concerns of many of the runners as the disaster unfolded, rather than sit back in silence.  Doing something is always better than doing nothing.

    Thanks again for your comment, and hope you did a great job on your run!


    Good article.  you bring up alot of interesting points.  I am from Chicago and have run 3 RAM races over the past 2 years with two of them being triathlons.  I have never personally had any issues and actually thought that they did good jobs.  I did do the Chicago Hot Chocalate 15K last year and my only complaint was that it was so crowded to get any hot chocolate after the race.
    I think that RAM can sometimes be a little over ambitious with the amount of participants they can handle.  I don’t think you run into that issue with the triathlons but when they try to do the large races they seem to get some bad reviews.  That race directors comment of how the venue could not handle more than 4000 was interesting.  And they had 20,000? 
    I heard about this through the owners post on Facebook yesterday.  After reading your blog I kind of have a different look at it now since you bring up a lot of good points as to how they handled it real time.
    My thought is that no race is gonna go without any problems but I have never heard of something so disastrous like this from the traffic to the police escorts leading the runner in wrong direction.  At the end of the day the race organizer is responsible for the outcome.  If they would have had a few races under their belts in DC then I think they would be able to weather the complaints and continue in that area but I am thinking their DC area race days are over. 
    Over all I hope this doesn’t put an end to RAM since like I said the races I have done I have enjoyed and actually got some good swag (bike jerseys, hooded sweatshirts, etc…).

  4. Thanks for the comment!  I appreciate your input regarding previous RAM events.  It seems like they just don't know how to cap their races at a safe number.  I don't know the exact number of participants but from one of their pre-race newsletters, that number was thrown out.  

    It's amazing how many people are still commenting and how quickly word of this event has spread to other outlets.  I mean, it was featured in Runner's World!  I do agree with you that every race has its fair share of problems but this is just remarkable.  There was an article in the Washingtonian earlier this week that mentioned that there was in fact NO accident that caused the back up, so who knows where the event organizers got that information from.  

    Personally, I still can't believe the event director at RAM Racing hasn't come out with another statement.  It seems like they are just waiting for this to blow over, but if they don't do something soon, I can't imagine anyone wanting to attend one of their events anytime in the near future!Thanks again for your comment and hope to hear from you again soon!

  5. Great post! I didn't participate in the race, or even know that it was going on this weekend, but I can imagine the outrage these people must be feeling. I usually bring my Blackberry to longer races so I can take pictures before/after, and I know I'm not the only one. I would have been going crazy if I was stuck in traffic and there was no update from the race's Facebook page. It sounds like a case of them overbooking the race.

    I've been following this since the race happened, mostly since the Hot Chocolate race has always been on my "Race Bucket List." Now I'm not so sure, especially since the race organizers seem to be just waiting for it all to blow over.