How to lose your audience in 60 tweets
Good luck to Center Parcs Ireland. Genuinely I wish them well: their investment is seriously good news for Longford.
I am very familiar with their operations in the UK and if you are flexible with your dates (and not bothered about being surrounded by families who believe they are too good to be seen in Butlins) it can make for a pleasant weekend cycling around the countryside.
Maybe that's why I wasn't invited to write an official review. That and the fact I am under no illusions that I am a total nobody who just happens to own a website.
Still, like most of the bitter followers who had coverage of the Center Parcs VIP experience thrust in their faces over the weekend, I can't pretend I wouldn't have accepted an invite like a shot.
For those who missed it, Center Parcs invited 400 influencers and lifestyle bloggers to experience a free weekend at Longford Forest, as well as all the perks of their VIP launch event, on the basis that they would fill social media with smug posts about how amazing it all is. It turned out Twitter users didn't like having to sift through ass-licking smuggery.
I'm not surprised Twitter didn't like it. What has surprised me is that the bloggers - who have been in this game for a long time - have taken offence at the blowback.
The bloggers were merely a tool in Center Parcs's marketing strategy. And here's the deal: marketing is all about speaking directly to your audience. Your audience are allowed to stick their finger up at you if they find your message patronising. It has always been that way. The word "backfired" exists for a reason.
I think we should be congratulating the rude people of social media for finally starting to see through the nonsense that the internet is full of. We all mutter about how we wish Instagram was less fake, but don't call it out when fakery is happening right in front of us.
I'm not accusing the bloggers of lying. I agree it looks nice. It's a brand new hotel! Something would have had to have gone incredibly wrong if the bathroom was dirty and the walls needed re-painting.
Which is exactly the point: somebody telling you that a brand new hotel looks nice is a waste of my ears. If they came round my house and showed me 30 photos of it, I'd whisper when they left the room. We can all see that it's silly. We shouldn't be surprised that the audience are no longer being polite about the whole charade.
Press events are nothing new. Traditionally, they were attended by newspaper journalists, who would again be treated to a VIP experience in the hope of getting a nice word in next week's paper. Meanwhile the journalist would only write nice things, because he wanted to be invited back.
In the modern era, bloggers have replaced journalists and Instagram has replaced newspapers. The stunt still works the exact same way. The difference is Instagram force-feeds you the stuff, and whereas you might have rolled your eyes at an ass-licking TV 'news' report, readers are now able to leave instant feedback.
I also wonder how much of the experience these influencers were actually taking in, if they spent the whole weekend posting tweets and stories. I don't want to criticise that - it's their free time to use how they wish - I'm just saying what I see. I'm also refusing to deny that I've done the same in a past life, so I know how an attention-seeker might think.
Anyway, while they're all competing with each other to get to the top of the algorithm, the on-brand hashtag is rising to the top of the list. This is where things went really wrong.
Social media audiences expect popular things to be worth their while, especially now everything is tailored to your individual interests. If you see something or someone that looks popular, but turns out to be dull, you feel conned.
The name for this is forced virality. There used to be a trick on Twitter where you'd create 50 accounts, retweet your tweet 50 times, and then Twitter would think it's really popular and start showing it to everyone. Doing this didn't make everyone like you. All that happened is thousands of people saw your tweet and thought, "that wasn't worth my time".
Center Parcs thought they had successfully pulled off this very trick. By locking 400 popular people in the room and having them all use the on-brand hashtag, the hashtag rose to the top of the trending topics. It worked. But everybody saw the hashtag, read the nauseating tweets and thought "that's just an advert". Forced virality always ends with disappointment. The readers felt lied to by Twitter. And they responded as such.
Recently there have been a lot of articles using the phrase "peak influencer". The idea seems to be that being an influencer has become such an attractive lifestyle that so many incompetent people are now doing it, and they have turned the whole thing into a shambles and a parody of itself.
Center Parcs's marketing executives should have seen this and should have been wary of being the next chapter in the story. They weren't. What they orchestrated was like watching a cartoon story about freeloading Instagrammers.
Were the people influenced? Maybe they were. I suspect the target audience of the whole event was people who are little less switched on to how marketing works than the moaners.
But once again we see that the tide is turning on the supposed magic of social media marketing. The audience are fed up of people trying to sell them things. And if you can't cope with that, you shouldn't be part of it.