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?


tabethawells View All →

I am an actor/writer/director based in Chicago, IL.

7 Comments Leave a comment

  1. This post cracked me up. I don’t think Disney intentionally created the craziness around the meet-up, but they’re certainly not above exploiting it. They’re thanking their lucky stars for the demand.
    My take on the whole thing is that it would be fun to do if it wasn’t so ridiculously managed. Given the cost of the races, getting something extra – a few photos in an empty park – would be nice. Outside of that, the recaps I’ve read make it seem like a giant commercial for Disney. It’s set up for people to spread the word via social media about whatever new thing is being unveiled. I’m not nuts about the idea of being an unpaid voice for the Disney Mega Marketing Machine.
    To be perfectly honest, I can’t imagine what compels people to sit at their computers for hours refreshing a page just to compete with other people who are doing the same thing to get used in this way. The longer I think about it, and the more I watch the group discussions on the different Disney groups, the more superficial it seems. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    • When I participated at the Meet Up last year, I definitely felt “advertised-to”, so you’re not wrong there.
      I wouldn’t say I felt like an “unpaid voice’, however, considering the reciprocation, experience and swag-wise. They got something from me (small though my readership may be) and I got something from them (experience, duffle bag, runDisney Vinylmation, park ticket, food, exposure to some running heroes and celebs and of course blog hits on the report…)
      I didn’t mind that, but then, I wasn’t looking for some “magical experience”. I’m an actor. I’m used to that kind of dance.

      I agree with you that the stalking can get out of hand. I saw some real ugliness which made me disappointed in people. That left more of a bad taste for me than anything runDisney offers or supposedly represents. They may control their message, but we, in theory, control our reaction. But, you know, bitches (male and female) be cray.

      Thanks for your really insightful comments!

  2. I was at work, sitting at a computer working, so refreshing the blog every once and again, was no big deal for me. I was pretty convinced if they did have a meet up, I wouldn’t be able to do it because of Dopey. But I thought I’d try if the opportunity presented itself.

    Yep, pretty ridiculous that people would get crazy over a meet up that ‘officially’ isn’t even promised.

    • This is what happens with Disney all the time, too, right? They have some neat little perk, a nice extra thing they do, but don’t have to, and then everyone freaks out wanting that “thing”.

      Then it’s not a special thing anymore, it’s an expectation…

      People can be real bummers.

  3. As you pointed out, it wasn’t Disney’s position to tweet out a non meet up event. Perhaps some people found that rude. Ohhhh bother……My thinking? There are always two (if not more) sides to a story. Perhaps Disney did try to put something together, but logistically it just didn’t work out. And perhaps it all just came down to Friday@5pm and then the blogger chain erupted with the inside information from Disney. You know, we will never know the true story. Although I’m a realist, I’m also an optimist at heart, so I’ll go with that.

  4. I have mixed feelings about the events. I attended one at Disneyland where we got to tour the Dream Suite. It was an amazing experience. But the more I read about them now, the more it feels like a big commercial. Like you said, you do get something out of it, but I don’t know that I like what it’s become. People are maniacs trying to get in. People send emails for friends and try to “cheat” the system by sending variations of names from multiple email addresses. I even heard about a teacher getting her students to refresh the page for her. And then, when they get there, there’s the “popular bloggers” trying to hang out together and show how very cool they are (I despise blogger cliques). On Thursday, I couldn’t decide whether or not I wanted to try to get in, and after chatting with my sister, we decided to not try, because there was a good chance we wouldn’t both get in, and we wanted to spend time together. Turns out that was a good decision.

    But I’m loving the fallout. People, if you chose to sit at your desk all day and refresh a blog, that’s your loss.

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