10/12/12

#LMATech - Hashtag Hijacking or Honest Heckling?

When I saw this tweet from Jason Wilson about the Legal Marketing Associations Technology conference hashtag #LMATech being hijacked, I had a pretty good idea who a couple of the folks were that were doing the hijacking. If any of you ever follow the discussion of Social Media, Marketing and Law Firms, there are those on the Marketing side… and there are those on the "I Call BS" side. Needless to say, they don't get along very well.

Whenever you have a conference, and you promote a hashtag on Twitter to promote the conference, you take a risk of someone coming in and using that hashtag for unintended reasons. Usually when we talk about "hijacking" hashtags, you think about what happened to MacDonald's earlier this year. That is a case where people put up false testimonies to embarrass the organization running the hashtag campaign. In the #LMATech situation, that's not really what happened. Instead, you have a different type of hashtag situation that looks very similar to having a heckler (or hecklers) in the audience. Think of Micheal Richards' meltdown during his stand-up routine back in 2006. I think that some on the Marketer side are coming close to taking the meltdown approach… one which feels good now, but when reviewed by the public will not put them in the best of light. (By the way, Michael Richards hasn't done any live shows since his meltdown, and he talks about it with Jerry Seinfeld.)

The hashtag hecklers on the other hand, aren't exactly coming to this with clean hands either. They are not doing anything illegal in their heckling, and in fact, they feel as though they are actually giving the LMATech conference a dissenting view from what is being tweeted from the conference. Ken, from Popehat, lays out a number of arguments about the risks that LMA takes when opening up a hashtag, and that he and others are simply dissenters voicing their honest opinion about what they think about what's coming out of the LMATech conference. However, it is heckling, and not just dissent that is being voiced by those calling BS on the LMA. It's pretty clear that the dissent is out to discredit the message and the messengers, and when it becomes personal like that, it takes on a mudslinging effect that suddenly gets very nasty. It gives those of us outside the argument something that amounts to entertainment, but not really anything of real value comes out of these types of arguments.

Here's my advice to LMA on how to handle the situation. First, accept the fact that there are those out there that simply don't believe in the message you are giving. Don't take it personally, every organization that puts on a conference and promotes a message will have its dissenters. Second, if I wasn't surprised that this happened, then you shouldn't have been caught off guard either. Next time, have a better plan in place on how to address a situation like this. You're Marketing people, after all, you handle bad press all the time, it's just that this time, it's directed at you and not your firm. Third, either ignore the heckling, appease the hecklers, or put the ball in the heckler's court. Invite one or more of them to a conference to speak to the group and have them tell you, as a professional, and an adult, to lay out all the issues that they have with what you are preaching. It seems that at least one person is willing to talk to the group.

Hecklers are going to continue to be out there, telling you that you are awful. Granted, you would think that respected lawyers would find more adult ways to discuss the topic, but I don't see that happening. The worst thing you can do is overreact. If you watch the interview with Michael Richards, he admits that he completely screwed up the situation by overreacting. Go check out the video (around the 14:00 mark) and listen to how taking something too personally has eaten away at Richards. Take his advice, acknowledge that there are those that are going to heckle you, let it roll off your back, and then go home and work on your material some more.

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13 comments:

Ken said...

Greg:

When you say "but not really anything of real value comes out of these types of arguments," does that presuppose that something of real value came out of the Tweeting of the marketing conference in the first place?

In other words, in evaluating whether there is value to what you call "heckling," don't you have to evaluate in the context of the forum, not in the abstract?

Jason Richmond said...

it was sad to see a bunch of "legal professionals" turn into little children, abuse the hashtag, heckle and end the conference on a sour note for many of us. i will not be attending LMAtech next time.

Greg Lambert said...

Ken:

Good question.

My thoughts are that if the information coming out of the conference is not of any value, then outside those that have drank the kool-aid of what the conference is touting, the lack of value is shown by the lack of interest in the public they are attempting to reach in the stream.

My comment on "but not really anything of real value" comes from what happens after about five tweets, and the breakdown from reasoned argument, or exposing a flaw in the conference, and it devolves into a back and forth personal argument that, although is entertaining, doesn't really address the context of the forum.

It just starts playing to people's worst side and causes a virtual yelling match that quickly deflects what the original purpose of the heckling tried to expose.

Grifter said...

So, if you aren't using "reasoned argument", you wrong to use a twitter hashtag? That's not quite the most asinine thing I've heard all day. But it's pretty close.

Insult through absurdity has been around since... pretty much forever. And I think you quite miss the nuance of the satire. (using ridiculous titles for pageviews since that's all they stress, asking about llamas on the hastag to point out how absurd it is to think you control a hashtag. God forbid they use humor in their insults that might make their argument technically weaker, but more entertaining?

And the idea that "the lack of value is shown by the lack of interest in the public they are attempting to reach in the stream" works great, until the fact that no one has spoken up to contradict them means someone who doesn't understand says "hey, they sound like they have a good idea!" If you don't think they have a good idea, insulting them publicly is America.

Greg Lambert said...

Grifter,

Actually, I didn't say there was no value in a Heckler, far from it. Hecklers can point out where you are weak or wrong in your message. Heckling can definitely bring value to a situation, if the people being heckled don't fall into a trap of engaging in a deteriorating conversation. Attempting to engage the heckler usually doesn't bring value, and results in name calling. Hecklers don't want to "fix" the problem, they want to point out that there is a problem and that the people involved are idiots.

Insult through absurdity is a legitimate way to point out the problems of the message being presented (whether it is via stand-up comedy or a conference hashtag.) However, it is meant to be a one-off statement, not the beginning of a conversation. The problem with what happened here was that some tried (and failed) to make it into a conversation and it ended up being a shouting match. That's the part that, in my opinion, doesn't bring value.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jason, you won't go back to a conference b/c what non attendees did on twitter with a #hashtag?

You really ar a p*ssy

Jim Feinbarger

Grifter said...

That's not really what you said, though.

"However, it is heckling, and not just dissent that is being voiced by those calling BS on the LMA. It's pretty clear that the dissent is out to discredit the message and the messengers, and when it becomes personal like that, it takes on a mudslinging effect that suddenly gets very nasty. It gives those of us outside the argument something that amounts to entertainment, but not really anything of real value comes out of these types of arguments."

That's a pretty lopsided series of statements, saying that what the hecklers are saying has no value because it criticizes the message and the messengers. It quite clearly does imply that heckling has no value. It was when you said that what they were doing wasn't just dissent, but heckling, and "It gives those of us outside the argument something that amounts to entertainment, but not really anything of real value comes out of these types of arguments."

To argue that, rather, it was a conversation that degenerated, an entirely different point.

Greg Lambert said...

Grifter,

Perhaps my wording wasn't as clear as it should have been. I was implying that there was an argument going on, thus a conversation.

It might be pretty one-sided, but that's because no one expects a heckler to stop or change their approach. My suggestions were aimed at the person/group being heckled and how they should have reacted differently.

Anonymous said...

Heckling, and many other kinds of demonstration, are disruptive. It is that very disruption which the heckler/demonstrator is employer to draw attention to their message. It might not be the most effective approach, but there's nothing new here with one side not liking the medium/tone/method of the negative feedback. They should keep their dialogue private if they don't like the public backlash.

Molly said...
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Molly said...
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Max Kennerly said...

Reporting the hijackers for "spam" was lame, but so is the defense that "nobody owns hashtags." We're not talking about property rights, we're talking about manners.

Consider the audience of the hijacking: nobody is really following conference hashtags except for people who are either at the conference or wish they were, so a bunch of hostile tweets on that hashtag don't serve any purpose except to annoy people who already think favorably about the conference.

All in all, just another Twitter story, which is to say, another waste of everyone's time on a dubious marketing method.

Anonymous said...

Manners? Really? Is someone arguing for manners on the Internet? Next thing you'll be suggesting that marketing itself should be absolutely truthful and without hyperbole.

 

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