In a current Blog post, interactive advertising guru Joseph Jaffe provides an impassioned rant in which he calls for the banning of Twitter at conferences. Jaffe’s argument seems to be two fold (Jaffe’s Blog Post). One, that it is unfair to conference organizers (and those attending) for those not attending to receive blow by blow coverage  of an event they did not pay for. But his main frustration is aimed at those who make fun, ridicule, or exhibit bad manners via real time tweets against the people presenting on stage.

Now, I’ve known Joseph for over 10 years, consider him a friend, and admire him as a thinker, but he is way, way off base on this one. Jaffe either “gets” social media or he doesn’t, and I think in this case he clearly is missing the boat.

In the first place, the idea of banning Twitter from a conference is ludicrous: that horse left the barn a long time ago. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no putting it back. Twitter and conferences are joined at the hip and to think that one can either ban, stop, or censor those audience members from Twittering their comments illustrates a lack of understanding about how ingrained this technology has become.

Second, it is a bit ingenious for marketing gurus who extol the virtues social media to their clients and the importance of engaging their customers in a real time dialog to balk when the social media eye is pointed at them.

Jaffe sees this trend as the end of conferences. On the contrary, it may be the thing that revitalizes conferences: too many presentations are slapped together, are thinly disguised sales pitches, or are, at worst, ridiculous blather that is pontificated from up on high and rarely goes challenged.

I can tell you, I have heard my share of preposterous statements being made by people whose only hands on experience is writing a book, and whose “theories” of interactive marketing are not based on any type of practical examples or tests, but just the latest buzz words designed to sell books and jack up speaking fees. These people need to be challenged and called to the mat. And Twitter provides the outlet for that.

If you are afraid that what you say will be ridiculed, perhaps you need to examine what you are saying, or engage your detractors in dialog. In other words, do exactly what gurus like Jaffe advise their clients to do: listen, engage, respond.


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