When should Twitter be banned at conferences? That’s like asking when does your right to free speech stop. There seems to be some controversy over whether Twitter use is appropriate at live events and conferences with strong stances from both sides of the camp. Some see Twitter as a tool and others as a distraction.
In a recent article by Chris Pirillo titled Should Twitter Be Banned at Conferences, I was surprised to see the reaction from his readers as well as Chris himself. Chris had just finished up a live presentation at LeWeb and, from Chris’ viewpoint, his presentation on community was not as widely praised as the presentations made by the guys from Twitter and Facebook. After the presentation Chris noticed that there we some negative and even what he termed “harsh” comments made over Twitter regarding the conference.
First off, let me say this to Chris: I wasn’t at LeWeb, but I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation at Blogworld and appreciated the touch of humor and wit you add to your teaching. It’s nice to break it up a bit and not sit through line after line of boring instructions. With your less tangible talk on what a community really is rather than step by step instructions or breaking news, you were leading people to think about their philosophies. Anytime you make people think for themselves there will be those that balk. It’s just simpler to follow the leader rather than being a thought leader themselves.
People Flock Together
That being said, I think we need to realize that there will always be some sort of negative feedback whenever we express a viewpoint or philosophy. When we are dealing with social communities and the mass effect of a tool like Twitter we are going to see some “me-too’ers”. Meaning, it’s our nature to want to be like the rest of the crowd…whether it be negative crap or a cheer leading squad. People flock together.
Don’t believe me? Have you ever had a friend share their opinion with you on a subject only to do a 360 on their viewpoint when the rest of the gang (usually headed up by an alpha’s nudging) decided they were on the other side of the fence? It takes courage to be different and stand up for what you believe in. So people take the easy way out and go with the masses. The same holds true for social masses, social media masses to be more direct.
Herding the Flocks
If we know people flock together then our goal is to learn how to herd the flocks. In any marketing strategy we will always want to be able to influence decisions, right? The trick is knowing how to gently lead. If negative feedback comes in our first reaction is to react in defense. Especially when we have poured our heart and soul into something and were giving our best. But for more desirable results our emotions need to be taken out of the mix and strategic thinking and response needs to take place.
In the case of the Twitter bashing of the LeWeb conference, at the first notice of negativity the event leaders should have immediately been made aware and responded. Isn’t this what we teach about customer service? We praise companies that use social media to respond to consumer reactions. Why would an event be any different? If the event is looking to make a profit, it is a business. If it is a business, it should have a logical system for responding to the attendees (consumers).
By incorporating an Event Community Manager, or at the very least a Twitter Moderator, a negative comment can easily be responded to or taken into a private DM conversation if possible. The manager would also be feeding the Twitter feed with positive comments during the presentation to counter set any negativity or just lead the flocks to a greener pasture. Each event should have a major presence on Twitter during all presentations and should be creating a cheerleading section.
Preposterous. Twitter is a very valuable tool that any experienced marketer will use to influence their flocks. In event marketing Twitter can be used as a monitor to alert the event staff to potential fires and feedback, good or bad, and allow them to respond, grow and profit. There are many reasons why events should use social media for their marketing. There are very few arguments for why they should NOT.
Who is the most important person at the event? Is it the event producer, the keynote speaker, or the attendees themselves? If you are looking for profit, then your very most important person had better be your attendee. They are paying to be there, they are looking for education, and they are the ones that control the word of mouth concerning your event. I strongly disagree with the statement made by Chris in his article:
There are a lot of important people in the audience, yes. However, the person on stage is the most important one of all.
What are your thoughts? How do you feel about the thought of banning free speech through Twitter at conferences? How have you seen conferences use Twitter for crowd control or customer service? Please leave your comments below.
To Your Success,