Velo Birmingham: The laws of social etiquette

Sunday 24th September saw 15,000 cyclists take to the streets of Birmingham (and Worcestershire) in the City’s first major closed road cycling event. Velo Birmingham saw riders from across the UK cover a 100-mile route through the normally traffic blocked roads as well as through delightful countryside settings such as Bewdley.

The event created a division of opinions with many embracing the opportunity and benefits that it would bring to the UK’s second city, whilst on the other side of the track, it created strife and frustrations to those who struggled to navigate the altered Birmingham roads. Social media was where these people turned to in order to voice their opinions, raising some interesting issues around social etiquette and how people behave towards one another.

veloblog1b.pngIn the week leading up to Velo Birmingham, road signs were distributed throughout the city alerting its residents to the forthcoming road closures. However, as with any major sporting event with the full-scale logistics required, gaps were identified and motorists were left pondering how they would be able to navigate their way around the City. In the days leading up to the event they turned to social media to ask their fellow Brummies for advice on the best route to take. Whilst Velo Birmingham’s official social media accounts did signpost to route maps containing the proposed road closures, there were little to no responses to individual requests or evidence of the official channel’s monitoring conversations surrounding the road closures. In their absence, other supportive locals pitched in and provided answers, embracing the community nature of the city but also the beauty of social media to facilitate discussion and engagement. Perhaps a customer service opportunity missed?


With more and more enquiries coming through regarding route maps, locations of the start time and general enquiries building, the lack of responses added to the frustration of many.


With 42% of customers expecting a response within 60 minutes, it’s quick to see tempers rise and conversations spiral out of control. What is interesting to observe is the interactions between complete strangers, those who step in to ‘support and defend’ versus those who set out to ‘attack and destroy.’ The evolution of social media has seen a change in how people communicate with each other with many losing their inhibitions, growing the confidence of Goliath whilst hiding behind their keypads. It seems as though common social etiquette has disappeared – if this aggression happened face-to-face in the pub, surely it would result in a punch-up?! What role (if any) does the event/organisation need to play in policing this behaviour and encouraging our traditional social morals and etiquette?


The final thing to consider is could more effective resourcing of social media and better communication, prevented some of the issues that were experienced on the day? As with any major event it is expected that there may be a few logistical hiccups along the way, however through clear communication these can often be turned around into opportunities to win support and grow customer loyalty (as O2’s masterclass back in 2014 certainly proves!) Despite many audiences turning to social media, as their first point of information at events, there is still a lack of understanding and indeed investment into effective resourcing of social media, despite the potential dangers that can arise when ignoring this volatile channel.

So what can we learn from the Velo Birmingham?

  • Listening out for your audience and the demand can help to shape your strategy, for instance having a dedicated customer service channel will help to ensure the audience has a channel to communicate but also enables the primary corporate channel to focus on promotional messages rather than fighting fires.
  • Putting a social media management platform in place and sufficient resource to manage customer service enquiries will go a long way to managing customer expectations.
  • Social media can identify and highlight your surprise success stories (in this case, the delightful town of Bewdley!)


James Leavesley

Overall the Velo Birmingham was a fantastic event, which brought thousands of people to our home City raising money for a variety of fantastic charities. We are proud to report that our CEO James Leavesley crossed the line in an impressive 5 hours and 41 minutes, clearly the gold shoes made all the difference!

Watch this space with more of the SoCrowd team hoping to take part in Velo Birmingham 2018!