Case Study: Broad Street Run Registration Complaints Hijack Facebook Page

Facebook proved again this week to be a top spot for people to express concerns, share complaints, and demand answers when issues arise. When runners encountered major delays while registering for the popular Broad Street Run in Philadelphia, PA, yesterday, the official Facebook page took quite a beating.

How did the team monitoring the page handle the surge of customer service issues? I’d say they did better than most:

Throughout the day, the admins explained the situation, responded to numerous comments left on the Wall, and shared updates about the registration process and website issues. I am also impressed no one is complaining that negative comments have been deleted or removed, which is a knee-jerk reaction many brands have when faced with a deluge of angry posts.

Though, I did encounter one area for improvement involving the default settings of the Facebook wall.

As I tried to register for the race, the site seemed unreasonably slow. Turning to the Facebook page for answers, I could not easily find the Broad Street Run’s administrator comments. I began to doubt whether organizers were using Facebook to provide updates. After sifting through hundreds of angry comments, I finally found info that the page had shared about the registration process. While trying to find official updates, I read a lot of the negative reactions to the race organizers. This left me wondering if I’d made the right decision in signing up for the run.

So, let’s recap:

  • I tried signing up for the race and realized the site seemed very slow
  • Wondering if others had similar issues with the registration process, I turned to social media and visited the Broad Street Run’s Facebook page looking for official notifications
  • When I got to the page, the default view for the Wall featured many negative comments from other runners
  • I could not easily locate official updates from the page owners
  • I doubted that the Broad Street Team was even providing updates through its Facebook page
  • Getting inundated with negative reactions to the race, I began to question my decision to register

With so many upset runners flooding the Wall, the team behind the Broad Street Run should have changed the default settings of the Facebook page so that people automatically saw only official status updates. This allows Facebook users (both fans and nonfans of the page) to quickly receive official information and stay informed, especially with how quickly updates disappear from the News Feed. Should anyone want to read comments from others, there is an option to switch the view to “Everyone:”

This is especially important to consider knowing that over 425 million Facebook users visit the site using a mobile device. Using the iPhone Facebook application, it is very tedious to scroll through Wall updates from both consumers and the page trying to find official news.

In both web browsers and mobile applications, if a page chooses to show its updates by default, only those posts that the page makes will appear unless someone manually switches the view back to “Everyone.”

Normally, I recommend brand pages default to comments from “Everyone” since Facebook is a community platform that thrives on engagement and conversations, but sometimes it is more important to provide updates to users rather than featuring the social conversation taking place on the Wall. In this case, sharing news about the registration process and status of the website should have taken precedence, especially when the page was doing a great job keeping people informed through consistent posts.

What do you think about how Broad Street Run’s Facebook page handled the issues yesterday? Would you have changed the default settings of the page?


4 thoughts on “Case Study: Broad Street Run Registration Complaints Hijack Facebook Page

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. I think a lot of races need to go to a lottery system, like the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, to avoid such a situation. I also tried to register but had trouble and was pretty ticked when it was full by 4pm. At the same time I think its great so many people are involved in running. There just needs to be a way to avoid these problems with registration and gives everyone a shot.

    • Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your feedback! I agree that better technological measures needed to be in place yesterday – with how quickly the event sold out last year and the increase in popularity of running long-distance races, the team should have done a better job anticipating the volume of site traffic or, like you said, moved to a lottery system. Personally, I am getting nervous that with lots of races turning to the lottery system, more and more people will be turned away from these experiences.

      But, after the tech issues happened yesterday, I found it interesting how many people turned to social media channels to complain or express concerns. Definitely a trend in customer service.


  2. I think its safe to say that what happened here put the team in charge of the Broad Street Run in crisis mode. It doesn’t surprise me that the runners trying to register for the event took to the Facebook page instead of making angry phone calls to those in charge of the run. Our culture has evolved so much in the past 15 years; Generation Y is much more likely to address their concerns via social media or email than by phone calls or snail mail.

    You brought up an interesting point that I hadn’t considered before: in a crisis, Facebook administrators should change the default settings of the Facebook page to automatically show only official status updates. While this is convenient, as you mentioned, for those who are trying to access information via mobile phones, is it really ethical? I understand that the company is not deleting the negative feedback when changing these default settings, but is there a better way to ensure that the official message is getting across? It might be beneficial to, instead, have one or two Facebook administrators constantly monitoring the page and replying to concerns and wall posts from runners as soon as they come in, and constantly posting new status updates to show the progress. In this case, the disgruntled runners would still see the negative feedback, but would also see how the people in charge of the Broad Street Run were handling the crisis.

    • Hi Brittany,

      I’m not even sure it’s a generational factor – most people, in general, will take the easiest method of contacting an organization and these days that tends to be Facebook or Twitter. When factoring in the public, social elements of these communications channels, crises can spread much more rapidly than before.

      Unfortunately, now that Facebook has made the switch to Timeline, my recommendation is no longer worthwhile because there is no Wall display on Facebook brand pages – instead only the most recent comments appear in a small corner on top of the Timeline.

      My recommendation did not come from a place of convenience for the brand. Instead, I was trying to help the brand realize there is a better way to make sure fans are getting the most important information directly from the source. How the page was set up during this issue made it very difficult to comb through all the negative fan responses to get official updates from the race organizers, who were actually doing a great job of replying to fans’ posts and posting new updates throughout the day, but the influx of new fan comments was just too much to overcome. The page admins would had to have posted new content several times per hour to ensure their messages remained visible – and I don’t think that would have reflected well in the News Feed.

      Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the discussion!


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