My social media streams would have me believe the world is full of vegetarian feminists eating smashed avocado on toast and drinking Cloudwater DIPAs. The bias that comes from choosing which voices you hear is dangerous and gives an extremely narrow view, so I extend my reading to people with thoughts and views that don’t exactly match my own. If I choose to be offended I can ignore, mute, block, or stop following (@officialmoz).
Even when you’ve done what you can to avoid conflict there will be those who want to bring you down, have a moan, take their bad day out on you with an angry reply you don’t deserve. And that’s fine. I posted a reply in support of Brian Blessed shouting at a group of badger killers, it was very innocuous and not at all upsetting for anyone. That didn’t stop someone thousands of miles away calling me an “ignorant drunkard”. I was livid! Sometimes I’m not drunk! In reality I didn’t care – I thought it odd, but I didn’t care. It’s the nature of the beast.
Angry reactions to pithy remarks are common, and I find it worrying that prominent figures within some of the biggest names in brewing can be so knee-jerk and defensive. I’m not involved in the examples that led me to write this, I just read the discussions.
A brewery recently announced exciting plans to enhance an already extremely successful and much-loved offering. Glowing congratulations were sent in return as fans and casual observers chattered in a delirious frenzy, like children hearing a free sweetshop full of puppies was opening. It was everything the brewery could have hoped for, overwhelmingly positive.
The following day a senior member of the team posted from their personal account. It was a “REMINDER” to Twitter users that you shouldn’t say nasty things. I wondered what an earth had kicked off and went back to the announcement to see what had been said. I expected a raft of vitriolic bile vented into the innocent, helpless faces of people just trying to do a good thing. There was nothing of the sort. A few said the brewery was getting too big and losing its way. Some said the beer had gotten worse lately. Others mentioned that they didn’t like the brand becoming ubiquitous and were ready for something new.
I went to the “REMINDER” hoping to find some explanation as to why he felt so hurt. He’d said that 99% of respondents were wonderful, but the 1% shouted loudest, getting all the attention, and that was unfair. Hmm…
Firstly, they weren’t shouting loudest, their comments started discussions. If this chap hadn’t felt the need to reply there would have been no discussion and no attention. Furthermore, 99% positive feedback is unreal, success by anyone’s measure. For just 1% to be crabby, or question the decision, is a major win.
But my biggest issue is that no thought was given to whether those who weren’t heaping adoration and drooling at the plans might have had a point. If they misunderstood what was being planned, a little more explanation might win them over. If they were unnecessarily fearful that a beer they love might change, they could be further reassured. If they prefer small business and a more personal relationship, they could be given a virtual cuddle and told they’ll always be special no matter how big the brewery became. Instead they got told to shut up. If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say it. If you don’t think we’re doing the right thing, you’re wrong.
This piece isn’t based on a single hissy fit, they have previous, despite the brand enjoying the kind of popularity most would give their yeast-pitching arm for. They’re expanding and the beers are great, but cranky and upset remains the order of the day.
Others react similarly, and I understand that independent beer rejects facelessness and a fifty-strong social media team in favour of visibility and personality. But to ignore customers who have concerns is a bit silly.
Most brewers respond without throwing a tantrum. They accept that the platforms they use to promote their products and events are the very same ones that allow people to feedback what they think.
Individuals are equally guilty, serving as #TwitterPolice, patrolling their feeds for any opinion that isn’t hysterically positive. I recently asked if there was anyone who could let me know what of Brighton’s pubs were independent as I’d been asked the very same thing by someone at one of my events. I’m just interested in good pubs, but I had a question from someone and I wanted to answer. The response was odd and a little unfriendly.
I also post about the beers I drink. Mostly I concentrate on the positive and praise the producer, but sometimes a beer just stinks. I won’t post as bluntly as that, I’ll point out that it’s over-bitter, under-carbonated, or not as per the description, normally alongside some redeeming elements. You can guarantee someone unassociated will be upset that I’ve been honest about a beer’s shortcomings, telling me I can’t say those things.
How do such innocuous posts attract such negativity? I don’t know, but I accept it because that’s what social media is about. I won’t start issuing reminders telling people what and what not to post. I won’t tell people their interpretation of facts is incorrect. I enjoy the back and forth, the silliness, and yes, the ignorant trolling.
If you can’t stand the Tweet, get out the brewery.