CLEVELAND, Ohio — Arizona Sen. John McCain tweeted Monday that he needed 74 new Twitter followers to reach the three million followers mark. It’s a status benchmark surprisingly coveted by a public figure even as accomplished as McCain.
His online begging didn’t work. McCain’s tweet was met with wide social media derision as hundreds of people decided to stop following him. Some unfollowed the senator because they disapproved of his “yes” vote on the recent tax reform bill. Others commented they stopped following because they felt it was lame that someone would stoop to beg for followers.
Despite McCain’s social media awkwardness, true social media rock stars walk among us. They know how to command large social media audiences and expertly grow them. They often are barely old enough to vote. These social media stars are taken seriously because legions of people (especially millennials) pay attention to what they say and do. Advertisers are constantly on the lookout for emerging social media “talent.” This so-called talent, whose primary tool is a smart phone, can surface anywhere.
The Barley House, a popular bar and nightclub in downtown Cleveland, is experiencing a social media lesson in real time. The establishment, which I have enjoyed over the years, is currently caught in the middle of a contentious social media soap opera.
The business was forced to go to court this week because it says its employees are being harassed, some receiving cyber and phone threats by followers of Alisa Violet and Ricky “FaZe” Banks, a duo said to be social media stars.
Violet and Banks left the Barley House in an agitated state early on the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving. They apparently were encouraged to leave by the establishment. The couple, who were visiting from California, claim they were treated rudely and aggressively by the club’s bouncers, allegations that the club’s management denies.
Once outside the West Sixth Street club, Violet was attacked by two women — not bar employees — who gave her a bloody lip and a black eye. The next morning, pictures of Violet’s bruised face appeared on social media, and the couple’s followers, who call themselves the Cloutgang, sprang into action.
Followers of the duo began a sustained cyber-attack on the Barley House. They hacked and temporarily deactivated the bar’s website. They left hundreds of negative online reviews and called the bar non-stop with threatening messages.
Last Thursday, the bar sought and received a temporary restraining order that forbids Banks, Violet and anyone in “active concert” with them from contacting the bar or its employees. The case is far from resolved in the court of law — or the court of social media.
The couple has filed their own claim, alleging that Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John Russo’s restraining order is abridging their free speech rights. They’ve asked the U.S. District Court to overturn the order, which forbids them from posting on social media about the club.
“Plaintiffs are well aware that the internet and social media are defendants’ primary, if not sole, means of publicity and communication (not to mention income), and their strategy was obviously to muzzle and censor any further dispute of their distorted, biased, and false version of what happened on the night in question,” the couple’s motion states.
The incident provides a useful reality check. A young woman, who wasn’t legally old enough to drink until this past June, visited the Barley House and got beaten up over Thanksgiving weekend. She has the pictures to prove it. Now she has declared war on the business with her partner and followers.
The Barley House has a fine reputation. Its owners are noted for their community involvement and charitable giving. The business will survive the Cloutgang.
Sometimes social media stars get punched in the face and become even more famous. Sen. McCain, a noted fan of boxing and a Twitter hound, may well take note.