When it makes sense to be anti-social

Nov 25, 2014 admin

In the past few weeks, I attended two very different thought leadership conferences and each had equally different social media plans. On a basic level, these events diverged in their status of invitation: one was public and one was private. While the public one encouraged attendees to participate in the live-tweeting with event hashtag reminders on the end of each presentation slide, the organizers of the private event limited its social presence by selecting hand-picked tweets from the company’s Twitter handle.  On top of that, they did not attribute any direct quotes to specific presenters at the conference. I had to wonder – why did each event’s social plan differ so drastically?

All aspects of an event/conference/symposium should align with the overall goal of the event itself —this includes the social media facet. The social plan can be dictated by a number of factors, from the size of the audience to the topic at hand. For example, if the subject of the conference is particularly sensitive or still largely unfamiliar, it could be advantageous to set digital boundaries.

While it may seem counter-intuitive in today’s age to limit social media presence and engagement at events, there can be significant benefits to doing so—particularly if the event has limited its attendees to ‘invite only.’ Here are a few:


  • Stimulate free flowing discussion. When people are highly aware that what they are about to say will be tweeted, posted on Facebook/LinkedIn or even recorded, they may be less likely to speak their mind. If you are hosting a more intimate event, you probably want to encourage more spur-of-the-moment conversations and debates. Without fear of being directly – and publicly – quoted, audience members are more likely to participate in the discussion and even present opposing (sometimes unpopular) views.
  • Put the subject at center stage, not the speakers. On social media, we are each portrayed by our distinct handles and profiles. So when a quote or notion is posted it is immediately tied to that person’s online persona. But if the digital egos are taken out of the picture, the topic of discussion holds the main focus of interest.
  • Limit misquotes. How many times have we had to vastly minimize what someone said in order to fit it into 140 characters? With only a few selective social posts, each message can be thoroughly edited and reviewed before they are made public.

This approach is certainly not for every event and risks limiting online engagement or amplification of the event content. But when fully considered and properly executed in smaller settings, it can inspire truly unique and personal discussions that may not have otherwise taken place. And there’s a time and a place for that.

*If you are not hosting an event, but instead plan on speaking at one, be sure to read my colleague Linda’s blog post on 7 Simple Tips for Speaking at a Conference – and Nailing It.

Topics: Twitter, Social Media, Thought Leadership

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