Long before heading to Charleston I found the official conference Social Media Policy on the NGS website. (Note: Twitter hashtag has already been updated for 2012 but this is the same policy that was in place for 2011.) This was going to be my first conference with a smart phone and I was really looking forward to using Twitter to send updates about the conference and to follow others who were attending so I was glad to see that NGS was embracing social media. At least it seemed like they were.
Their official policy stated "NGS does permit and encourage the use of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging at the conference as a way to summarize, highlight, excerpt, review, critique, and/or promote the presented materials, syllabus materials, or the conference in general . . ."
Imagine my surprise when session after session we were told to "turn off" cell phones and all other electronic devices. The announcement varied but almost every session I attended made an announcement anywhere from a simple "turn off your cell phone" to a detailed announcement of all the specific devices that should be turned off. Occasionally there was an added statement to the effect of "if you have the syllabus on your laptop or other device you can leave it on as long as you aren't using it for anything else." Some speakers even prefaced this information with "we have been told to announce . . ." which sounded a little like "this isn't my idea." There was no question about the intent of these announcements. They did not mean "silence your cell phones but feel free to use social media to promote the conference."
So what does this mean? Did the conference management fail to read the official social media policy? Did the official social media policy really mean "we encourage the use of social media as long as you don't actually use it during a session?" Does NGS not understand that social media is most effective as an event is happening? People aren't going to wait until after the conference day is over to go back to their hotels and tweet out numerous updates about things that happened throughout the day one right after another. People at home trying to follow along want to know what's happening as it's happening not hours later. Instant information is the whole point of social media. You can't say you encourage it and then tell everyone to turn off every device that could be used for it.
I hope NGS comes to a better understanding of social media before 2012.