Social media tools are changing the way that we communicate and interact. Unfortunately for a much-despised BCS (College Football Bowl Championship Series), it makes it all the more easy of playoff fans to take swipes at their enemy.
If you don’t follow college football, here summary: The BCS is a computer-based system that creates the official college football rankings based on a complex set of stats (# of wins, conference position, strength of schedule, etc). The results are used to determine who will play in the national championship game. The problem with this is that many times teams with 1 losses have been placed in the championship game, while undefeated teams get shut out. This year is especially contentious, as there are 6 undefeated teams, but the BCS has pretty much come out and told TCU, Boise State and Cincinnati that they have no shot for the championship game.
With the success of March Madness in College Basketball, combined with the fact that Division 2 & 3 football have a playoff, it’s puzzling why College Football hasn’t adopted a playoff system. One of the popular playoff alternatives is "the Wetzel plan", which puts together a criteria for a 16-team playoff.
Earlier this week, I saw the story in Deadspin how the BCS has employed a new PR firm, whose first actions was to establish a Twitter and Facebook presence in this Social Web World. This makes enough sense, but they’ve committed two serious errors in judgment: 1) Forgetting that they’re a controversial and much-despised, and would likely have more critics than fans; 2) Actually engaging their critics by baiting them into debate, without fully participating in the conversation.
Hilarity ensues: For the past few days, it’s been a fun game to do a search by the BCS’s username: @InsideTheBCS and see them make a straw man claim, then watch their critics go to town on them without any response. Check it out below:
What’s been great is that the critics have actually been presenting good arguments. There are a few personal attacks here and there, but for the most part the responses have been well-reasoned (for as much as you can be in 140 characters or less). The problem is that @InsideTheBCS doesn’t really respond to any of the valid points, it pretty much continues to make their contentious, canned responses that they’re given phrased differently. They do respond to some users, but mainly when they have the canned answer in their wheelhouse.
Let this be a social media lesson to brands/organizations, especially unpopular ones: Unless you’re willing to engage in an authentic conversation with your critics, then controversial groups should probably stay away from social media. Having your PR Firm running this interference is only hurting you in the court of public opinion. Worse yet, it’s banding your enemies together. While I’ve always hated the BCS, I really didn’t care much about this issue until three days ago – when it became entertaining to have this conversation. Something tells me that the people doing PR for the BCS are having a very lousy week.