Antisocial Social Media

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement

Posted: 07/29/2014

“Any press is good press,” is an antiquated and spurious adage. Social media failures are now commonplace and can lead to decreased business, and in extreme cases, closures. The list of restaurants, bars and businesses I’ll never visit because of the views, attitudes, content and strategies portrayed on their social media platforms is growing, including a Cambridge, MA “Beer Bar Bistro.” Fortunately, the list of Boston-area businesses I need to visit, partly because of their social media persona, is longer than my boycott list.

I got into a dustup on Facebook recently (7/16) with whoever was contributing content on the facebook page of a “Beer Bar Bistro” in Cambridge, MA. The ‘brewhaha’ started when the bar posted;

Tonight on Draft we have some of the most important beers in the world… particularly from Belgium…

[Highlight is my emphasis. -PM]

De Ranke XX Bitter 
De Ranke XXX Bitter 
De Ranke Saison de Dottinges
De Ranke Guldenberg
De la Senne Jambe de Bois 
De la Senne Band of Brothers 
Bink Blonde 
Bink Grand Cru
Thiriez XXtra
Blougies La Manuesse
Blougies Saison

Other “Beer Bars” will tell you to drink Dupont, Chimay, Karmaliet, Guldendraak, Piraat, Delirium.

They would be wrong.

I thought their post was a dick move and told them so in a comment. Their response;

Beer Bar Bistro: Patrick Maguire, if you think we are dicks for saying that some of the beers you like are not very good, well then, I guess we are dicks.

I don’t know much about beer, but I do know that everything we say when we’re representing our brands in a public domain registers in the brains of potential customers and influences buying decisions. Insulting, mocking and taunting your competition and/or peers fosters negative perceptions. Businesses walk a very fine line attempting to employ an effective strategy around bravado. And businesses that depend on grandstanding often state that their intent was humor after they’ve been called out.

Me: No, I just think it’s a dick move to put parentheses around “beer bars” mocking your peers/fellow restaurant owners and workers who serve the beers you listed. Pretty condescending, insulting and dickish approach to co-existing in a very small town.

BBB:  It’s hardling mocking to say to someone the product they serve is not good. Our approach is in fact to co-exist. We’d just like our peers to pour better beers. So that we could actually be peers. If we sold the world’s best burgers and called ourselves a burger bar, and other “burger bars” sold crappy burgers, we’d still reserve the right to say they ought to sell better burgers.

Me:  And if you told other “burger bars” that they ought to sell better burgers you’d be arrogant dicks. (Yes, I know that’s part of the attention-seeking schtick.) Taste and business strategies are subjective. Who are you to tell other restaurants/bars what kind of beer is best for their business and their customers, and to tell them that they’re “wrong” for what they serve?

The ‘conversation’ intensified, but quickly died after a few more exchanges. Apparently someone realized that digging a deeper hole was a bad strategy. It will be interesting to see if they leave the thread intact. If they take it down, I copied all of it.

As I stated in the “Beer Bar” facebook threadI get the “king of the hill/let’s be edgy” swagger that has always been part of the schtick, but I don’t agree with it when it crosses the line. I believe that you can still have a unique brand identity and personality without being disrespectful, especially to those in your own industry.

It’s imperative for businesses to demonstrate that they have a personality that fits their brand, but I also believe that humility, gratitude and respect should be recurring themes in social media campaigns.

Ironically, the owner of “Beer Bar Bistro” is building a large brewery in Massachusetts and will be attempting to sell beer to many of the same “peers” he has alienated. As one Facebook commenter noted, “Weird for guys about to open a massive new brewery to be talking this way about potential accounts, no?” Well, yes.

The owner of “Beer Bar Bistro” was asked on Facebook, “I’m beginning to wonder why you are opening a brewery in USA when you are so reverent to Belgium…”

BBB Owner: “…it’s not so much a reverence toward Belgium Beers, as it is reverence towards these particular Breweries in Belgium. There is so much shit beer being produced in Belgium…I feel it’s my responsibility as a citizen of the world to educate people on what they SHOULD be drinking. As a Brewer, I will make whatever the hell I want and then tell people they SHOULD be drinking that!”

Oh, really?

“I am the greatest!” was endearing (even eloquent) when trumpeted by Muhammad Ali, but only a handful of humans and businesses can get away with it.

Do comments, attitudes, and opinions expressed on social media influence your decision about patronizing an establishment? Some customers don’t pay attention or care at all. Even after Upper Crust Pizzeria in Boston was found guilty of exploiting their employees, many people continued to patronize them because it was convenient. Where do you draw the line? When do you take a stand? Is it bigotry, bullying, bragging, misogyny, politics, religion, exploitation of employees, or something else you saw on social media or elsewhere that has lead you to boycott a business? Please add your comments and stories below. Thank you.

8 Responses to “Antisocial Social Media”

  1. Lalunkee says:

    If the brewer is going to be that cocky, the beer better be good. I guess we’ll see whether he can back up his bluster. The problem for the brewer is that he’s set a really high bar for himself and dissipated any goodwill he might have had going in.

  2. MC Slim JB says:

    Apparently, Lord Hobo didn’t get the memo about Don’t Be A Dick Day:

    I have to say that Lord Hobo’s attitude here is not hard to find among its target audience. The beer-geek community has a lot of dickish types who clearly derive as much pleasure from sneering at “noobs” as they do drinking good beer. Maybe this is just tailoring the message to that audience.

    But it’s quite another thing to shit on your competition in the beer-geek bar business, especially in a town where the industry community is so small. Why be a dick when you can be collegial, a good neighbor, a supportive community member? The businesses that tend to stick around don’t see the industry as a zero-sum game, where their success depends on someone else’s failure.

    I see plenty of places and individuals (I can think of one very recent South End example) that come out arrogant and combative and demonstrate the lifespan of a mayfly. It’s not just bad karma; it’s bad business strategy.

  3. Matt says:

    This is par for the course for them. I stopped following (and spending money there) a year or so ago because of some lackluster service followed by idiotic customer-hostile commentary on Facebook. Here’s another example:

  4. Frederic says:

    I would visit that bar more often if they didn’t have a void of hospitality every time I go in there. Most nights, I would rather get pretty good beers and great service than great beers with just okay service.

    Of the alleged top 4 beer bars in Massachusetts (from the top 100 list published last year or so), Hobo and Publick house have always been aloof, while Deep Ellum and Armsby Abbey have a clue about hospitality.

  5. Putting aside my personal distaste (read: Jealousy) for everything Cambridge, That exchange on FB was shortsighted and foolish. It can be fun on Social Media to be controversial, grumpy, pissed off and even rude at times but you have to choose your targets carefully.

    You really want the mob on your side if customer dollars are what you’re living off of. Alienating anyone in your industry is never a good idea. Look at all the negative bashing of Lord Hobo that has gone on since. Be cocky, be arrogant at times but do it tongue in cheek, do it with a smile on your face because if they don’t get the joke or know you’re kidding, well, then it’s a quick ride back to the bottom.

    Besides, it’s only beer for god sakes.

  6. Rob says:

    He’s wrong. Dupont and Chimay are world class beers. The others mentioned are mediocre for Belgian styles, but even some of the ones he mentions as superior are middle of the road. Bink Blonde, come on. The beers he mentions largely have one thing in common: more hops.

  7. Jeff Toister says:

    There’s only one rule in drink: If you like it, it’s good.

    Telling someone that something they like really isn’t good is definitely a bit arrogant. Doing it on Facebook brings that to a new level.

  8. Frederic says:

    I wonder if people will forget this attitude when the Hobo brewery comes knocking on their door trying to peddle their wares. A lot of damage control for a scene that doesn’t forget things easily.

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