With Bikefest, there's a social media battle for hearts and minds

As Grand Strand officials try to end the Atlantic Beach Bikefest, they're faced with a communications problem. They can't control the words and videos that show up on social media.

But they can fight what social media says about Bikefest by using their own social media.

What claims to be the official Black Bike Week web site, with information about Myrtle Beach hotels, festival-related parties and so on, is one example of how the web can independently drive the event that many blame for the Memorial Day weekend violence that led to three deaths.

At the bottom of the site in very fine print is a message: "This website is in no way affiliated with the town of Atlantic Beach or the Atlantic Beach Bikefest."

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce's marketing team keeps a close eye on those kinds of sites.

"We have a social media agency that constantly monitors that 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are given reports and information as to things that come up that are anomalies," said chamber marketing director Susan Phillips.

If a video or social media posting shows up that might suggest that visitors to Myrtle Beach can get away with breaking the law during Bikefest, the chamber tries to respond to counter that message.

"We will constantly stream information and share with folks what they need to know," said Phillips.

After the Memorial Day weekend shootings, Phillips said the chamber used its own media, the Visit Myrtle Beach Facebook page and Twitter account, to paint what she said is the right picture for visitors.

"We told them factually what's going on, but also what we're here to do for their safety and how we're looking to move to the future and assure that these things don't happen again so that we don't have the lawlessness," Phillips said.

Phillips said when something negative about Myrtle Beach happens, the chamber can use social media to get its message out immediately.

She said they expected many Facebook comments from visitors after the Memorial Day weekend violence, but instead got only a handful of messages, mostly expressing sadness for the victims' families.