Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Curious Case of Disappearing Social Media

This morning I woke up, came downstairs to check my Twitter feed over breakfast, and discovered that Games Workshop have apparently shut down their social media. Heading to @ForgeWorld, @BlackLibrary and @GWDigital on Twitter all received the same effect. The feed would flash for a moment, then settle on: @GWDigital [or whichever] does not exist.

Curiously, for me, @blacklibrary is still up, but reports are coming in that they're all down.

This has naturally spawned one heck of a public outcry.
"They've pulled out of Facebook," said one of my Twitter followers, "so I'm guessing they can't be bothered with this 'community' thing anymore."

Perhaps a little harsh for a company that has always prided itself (wrongly or rightly) on its customer services, and let's be fair here; whilst you do get the occasional over-zealous "What can I sell you?" Staff member, they're infinitely better than most places on the high street where you're either ignored or utterly hounded for stuff you don't want. At least here you secretly want to buy it all.

Another commented, "it is an odd move. I mean how much can those outlets cost them VS the exposure they bring?" In short, about £7.30 an hour to pay each of the three or four staff members that deal with centralised Twitter and Facebook. The individual Store Facebook pages (and the Twitter accounts that feed from them) are run by the Hobby Centre Managers as part of their daily duties. I know, I used to do it, and this reader is right. It'd be idiocy to cut that for the sake of saving money. Social Media is an invaluable channel to any business, especially smaller ones - and remember, though it's global, strictly speaking GW is a small company. 

Perhaps then, as another of my commenters put: "I expect an announcement today from them that will be highly unpopular. No avenues for criticism now...", then "But still, history of social cowardice from GW and consumers - people whinging but still buying Imperial Knights!".
To this, another added, "I wouldn't count on them knowing the power [of social media], they ran crying from criticism on Twitter remember."

Actually, they didn't run crying. They made an unpopular decision, acting upon intellectual property law in order to protect their business. This was the "Spots the Space Marine" case, and I still see both sides of the argument. I'm not going to get drawn into a discussion on it again. Suffice it to say, it wasn't so much a case of 'running crying', more cutting off a poisoned limb. The outcry was huge, and for a small company (and again, GW is a small company - big in its market, but small globally, and a niche business), especially GW, word of mouth is of utmost importance. On one hand, they needed to shut that down before it became too much to handle. Let's be honest here, GW's Internet hate crowd have a penchant for overreacting. 

Yes, people complained at the Knights, but as usual it's a small group of people who have found a very loud voice hidden behind their keyboards and computer screens. Because the voice is so loud, it seems like a big group. A quick browse on social media still proves that GW is the industry giant with their games, and with their models. My Twitter feed had been 90% Knights since they were released. Don't be an idiot - they are popular. The internet hate-machine has systematically and noisily complained about every single GW release for as long as I can remember, and I wish people would stop listening to it now. I'm done. Bored. Move on. 

Anyways, back to the whole 'running away crying' thing. On the other hand, the situation had already become unmanageable. I was the manager of the Epsom Store at that time, and I had to spend hours going through posts as far back as 2010 deleting comments people had made in response. One person had systematically gone through the entire history feed and left the same comment on every post. I had public posts on the GW Epsom Facebook page, private messages to me directly, venomous and full of hate. These people didn't care that I only worked for the company, their threats and accusations were leveled at me. I can't imagine what it must have been like for the guys running the central social media accounts. I was so disheartened I barely wanted to open the store - my job wasn't to deal with that, I was paid to give customers the best service I could, not to take flak for decisions I hadn't made or had any say in. I repeat, I cannot imagine, nor would I want to, the vile and disgusting things that would have been said to them.

You want to call it running with your tail between your legs? I'd challenge you to sit down and deal with that kind if response. It is disheartening, painful and really gets to you. I'm certain that you, dear reader, will have seen the kind of venom the internet can produce. Now imagine it's your sole job to wade through all that and respond to as much as you can when you know full well that the person on the other end won't listen and will only respond by turning up the heat. 

I know a lot of people lamented the closing of @VoxCaster. I used to love it, every week I'd post up a #miniaturemonday and tag @VoxCaster. They'd usually retweet and thus thousands of people saw my work. Then the internet got angry, smashed it up, and this is why we can't have nice things. 

Ultimately, however, only time will tell what's happened to GW's social media. Perhaps they were victims of a cyber attack that's left them reeling. Perhaps they are closing down all social media channels, but I highly doubt that. From training sessions I've had when I worked with the company, I guarantee you that they know the value of social media. I know because they instilled it into me. Perhaps then, the reasons may be far more beneficent. 

Rumours have flown around about the three main GW websites being rolled into one new project, and I can tell you that my managers used to talk about it a lot. "Don't worry, the site will be changing soon anyways", and talk of Forge World and Black Library thus being available to order in-store, and the like. As memory serves, it was supposed to be Summer 2014, but maybe that's already happening? Maybe they're getting the social media channels all hooked in first?

Then again, I can't imagine why they'd centralise it all and not leave it as Black Library, Forge World and Games Workshop, the same way that the publishers Penguin have Penguin, Penguin Classics and other accounts for their other imprints. To me, very little of this makes sense, but I'll be keeping an eye online to see what emerges. 

I'll keep you posted on what we find out.


  1. Like you said, people can develop a loud hate voice behind a screen, common to all social media. Some people take the advice of the hate, believing it to be true, and end their lives. The internet is VERY powerful, and often abused.

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      It's a sad state that the internet is both one of the biggest boons of modern society - giving you everything you could dream of at instant fingertip access, including incredible knowledge databases - and also one of the worst things in human history in regards to how people choose to utilise the blanket of anonymity.

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