The use of social media in the property industry has grown massively over the past six years. Our goal was to create an almost real-time journey across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, to give those following at home the opportunity to follow, share and support. For this year’s event, we were predominantly responsible for Twitter, while Emma and Charlotte from Club Peloton looked after Instagram and Facebook. We had agreed this as a strategy before the ride, in order to help us create consistent stories around both routes as they progressed through the day.
We were on the Portsmouth route and Emma and Charlotte were on the Folkestone route, so we shared photos and updates on WhatsApp to help us create a narrative around both routes. We also used dedicated hashtags: #Portsmouthroute and #Folkestoneroute so that those following at home could differentiate between the two routes. We also had one photographer for each route – Matt was with me on Portsmouth and Joolze with Emma and Charlotte on the other.
We book-ended our Cycle to MIPIM social activity with some crew support, driving the medics’ van on the inaugural Leeds to London route prior to Cycle to MIPIM, and driving another van through France back to the UK after it’s over. Although I was still working, being purely crew allowed me to experience what’s going on in a different way. Arriving in London after the Leeds to London Northern Power Leg for the start of Cycle to MIPIM, it definitely felt like the circus was in town.
A busy schedule
The sheer number of crew and riders, along with 190 bikes, had to be seen to be believed. As soon as we arrived, a social media brief and a photography brief were placed in our hands. Cycle to MIPIM is an endurance test for riders and crew. The alarm goes off at 4.45am most days; we are on the road at 6am; and we arrive in the evening anytime from 8pm onwards. There is barely any downtime. Lunch is half an hour if we are running to time, less if we are not!
We were on Twitter all day, generally following the peloton. From a purely practical point of view, I sometimes had to choose whether to eat, find coffee or use the loo at the stops between stages, as these generally last about five minutes. I felt for the riders: these decisions get harder to make the further into the week – and the more sleep-deprived – you get.
It was a huge help personally that I had done the event before. Having a rough idea of how it is organised, which vans follow the peloton, how the stops work, where you can find certain things and so on all helped. It is one less thing to worry about when out on the road. The activity on social was constant – and huge – although mobile phone blackspots still exist in rural France, affording rare moments of peace from the digital overload. Twitter was inundated with messages of support for the riders. It was incredible how much support there was from everyone back home.
The more time we spent out on the road (even with a brief jaunt out on the bike to do the infamous “five climbs” stage) the more we got to know the riders better. Some are repeat riders and therefore familiar faces, but there were also lots of new riders this year. It was amusing to hear how they had got involved with the ride. Some were encouraged by bike-mad employers while others had been wanting to take part for years and had finally got a place.
All were generally in some kind of love-hate relationship with the experience; exceptionally sleep-deprived but loving the cycling, the camaraderie and the French countryside, as well as how much they were achieving on their bikes. The final day – our arrival in Cannes – is always special. Getting 190 cyclists together for the finish photo is the responsibility of the very capable Matt (up a stepladder so he can get everyone in) while I tweeted and retweeted messages of congratulations. And then the circus was over and, barring a long drive home, it was time to return to the desk and the day job.
All in all
The overall feeling from the event was that the social activity we were partly responsible for did what we wanted it to. We created a way of following the cyclists’ journey online and in real-time, and gave supporters a real sense of what was happening many hundreds of miles away in France.