Last week I was at the Communicating the Museum conference in Malaga where the hot topic of the day was the role of social media in the museum and art gallery. One phrase that kept cropping up was “don’t tweet this but…” usually followed by a revelation, sometimes scandolous and often fairly dull, about their experience in the museum world. Whilst some seemed to be using this as a way to titillate the audience, other speakers seemed genuinely worried that their thoughts would be revealed to the online community.
But since when was standing up on stage speaking into a microphone with a pre-prepared powerpoint presentation in front of over 150 people considered a private space? The phrase “don’t tweet this but..” suggests a conversation over the garden fence about the behaviour of one of the neighbours, not something you broadcast to an audience you have only just met.
Later I asked one of the speakers why they had used this phrase and they said that they were worried the audience for their museum would know they were being discussed. Sort of like finding out two friends have been gossiping about you behind your back. I can see what they are frightened of – a vitriol fuelled online backlash. But although we like to treat our audience as our friends we have to make sure we don’t treat them like they are stupid. They aren’t fools, they know that the museum is staffed by profesionals who are paid to attract their attention… right?
Transparency was a buzz word at the conference, putting yourself out there and talking to your audience, not hiding behind generic marketing speak. But this goes both ways. Yes, we are passionate real people who love the organisations we work for, but it is disingenuous to act as though we are not paid professionals too, otherwise it’s just another kind of deception, another way to pull the wool over the eyes of your audience.