Case Study: The Atlanta Taco Festival & How Not to Handle Social Media

If you know anything about me, you know I LOVE tacos. To me, there are only three food groups: tacos, pizza and Chinese food. So when someone messes with my love of tacos, I’ve got to call it out.

The wonderful and diverse city of Atlanta got to experience its first taco festival on May 1st. Why it took this long for a taco festival is beyond me, but I digress. This festival was advertised everywhere. The organizers got radio ads, Facebook ads and put flyers on pretty much every single telephone pole in the entire city and metro area. This event was going to be awesome sauce. Or so it was advertised.

The day finally came and the crowds descended upon Candler Park (the location of the festival). Thousands of hungry Atlantans came to feast on the gloriousness of tacos and beer. Some had ordered tickets ahead of time and received them in the mail, others picked them up Will Call and others had to redeem their Groupon/Living Social deal.

The event was touted to be a cashless/cardless festival, meaning people would receive a special wristband with an RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip that came with some preloaded “points” and you were able to load more money onto it. The idea itself is great. You don’t have to carry cash, just scan your wristband. And it makes it super convenient to not overspend. And the festival would have been amazing, if their RFID technology didn’t fail.

You see, the Atlanta-area has been experiencing a lot of spring showers lately. These rain storms come and go all the time. Some last for 10 minutes, others for more than an hour. The weather decided to make an appearance that day and douse everyone with lotsa rain. LOTS. The park turned into a mud pit and the RFID technology failed.

So now thousands of people are standing in line waiting to get their wristbands, but they can’t get activated because the RFID scanners are failing. Also, the people standing in line to receive tacos or beer can’t get anything, because the RFID scanners that the vendors used were also failing. It was a giant mess, literally.

And the citizens of Atlanta let the event organizers know.

I tuned into the social media mess around 4 p.m. that day. Word was getting around that the festival was a total flop. It seemed like the event organizers had turned a blind eye to their social media. As if that isn’t bad enough, comments were being deleted. Turns out that deleting all the negative comments backfired, horribly. Memes were made. Photoshopped images of the event were posted. A hashtag was created. Hell hath no fury like the taco-loving people of Atlanta.

  • Then the organizers deleted the Facebook event.

  • Then they ended up deleting the main Atlanta Taco Festival Facebook page.

  • AND THEN they started deleting negative comments on their Instagram account and blocking those users.

I mean, seriously? The festival was bad enough and now all these complaints are falling on deaf ears. The event organizers totally dropped the ball on this. And now, there’s a dedicated Facebook group full of people who attended the festival and are disputing the company for a refund.

Here’s how to prevent a social media SNAFU from happening.

  1. Hire a dedicated person to handle all social media.
  2. Train this person on proper customer service for the event. Give them a script if needed.
  3. Have a crisis communication plan prepared just in case.
  4. Put a policy in place to never delete negative comments.
  5. If needed, give a statement that addresses all the complaints and concerns.
  6. Respectfully reply to ALL the comments.

Repeat steps 5-6 repeatedly.

Now excuse me while I daydream about my love of tacos.