Last weekend was the National Council of Women NZ’s Conference. For the first time, I was at a conference as a member of Twitter and with a computer in front of me (still haven’t got a smartphone of any type), so I decided to make a couple of Tweets, just to practice. This is where my 23 Things for Research buddies would appreciate what it means for me to be doing this! I tweeted to @NCWNZ and then discovered that others were too, and I followed them and they followed me … and we tweeted, analysed, discussed and recorded the conference that was happening around us. It was like passing notes around, or having whispered conversations, but much less obtrusive. I must acknowledge my thanks to the experienced Tweeters who tolerated my “kid in the candy store” attitude during the conference. A blog that Thinks about Ideas, however, should offer some reflection on the experience, ergo:

Many of those at the conference were not aware of the Twitter conversation. A few months ago, I certainly wouldn’t have been. Most people know that social media ‘happens’, but I’m not sure many would have registered it was happening here, now, about something they were involved in. This gave the whole experience (from my perspective) a sort of furtive, secretive feel, an ‘us and them’ divide. In a way it’s the public/private debate from a different angle. On reflection, I think this made me uncomfortable, which is probably why I took a lot of opportunities to talk about it. I mentioned it when I had the microphone on stage, I showed tweets to the people I was sitting near, and started conversations at the food breaks. These tweets are public material, so I think that people who are participating in the conference should be aware of it.

A conversation then started on the necessity of developing a social media policy for the organisation. Media about an organisation affects the identity, branding, reputation etc., so is usually carefully controlled through a central gatekeeper. Yet Twitter makes everyone capable of a media release. How can an organisation control the uncontrollable? Is it even desirable? A voluntary code of conduct perhaps? What would be in such a code? What was obvious is that an organisation ignores the power of social media at its peril. As an example, there were many Tweets about the Abortion Law review remit by “Pro-life” advocates which expressed their unreserved pleasure about the outcome; compare that with the official media release at http://www.ncwnz.org.nz/gender-equality-call-for-5050-by-2020/. The organisation has a responsibility to present a balanced and considered viewpoint, and emphasise things that fit with overall strategic direction. Tweeters have no such responsibility. Or do they, if they are a member of the organisation?

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