On tweeting the fine line between promoting and bragging

There was a social event a month or two back. To be honest, I’ve completely forgotten what it was for, but it was one of those “invite a lot of local bloggers and tweeters out for a night” type of things. Someone asked me if I was going, and it was the first I’d heard of it, but then over the next hour I saw tweet after tweet after tweet about it, and it seemed like just about everyone in my social media circle was on their way.

I have to tell you, it was a little too reminiscent of high school. My first reaction was a visceral, albeit short-lived, pang of rejection. “Everyone else got invited and I didn’t?” I didn’t even particularly want to go to whatever it was, but I sure as hell wanted to have been invited.

On the other end of the spectrum, I do get invited to some wicked cool events, like the Marksover and the Fisher-Price playpanel. I feel an obligation whenever I get invited to one of these events to talk about it, to tweet about it, to photograph it and to blog about it. I’m no fool, I know that I have been invited less for my outstanding array of knock-knock jokes for all occasions and more for my influence in social media circles.

And of course, there’s the annual run-up to big conferences like BlogHer, which I have never seriously considered attending. Even though I don’t particularly want to go, it’s a little bit painful to watch my friends tweet about getting their tickets, heading to the airport, meeting new friends and, last year especially, getting boatloads of swag. I wouldn’t mind not going if I weren’t hearing in real time how much fun everyone was having without me.

I was thinking about all this when I read a couple of recent articles online. One was a NYT article called On Twitter, ‘What a Party!’ Brings an Envious ‘Enough, Already!’ It’s about people’s reactions to tweets from the recent SXSW festival in Austin, Texas:

Twitter users are tiring of it: the sharp pang of envy that comes when someone they are following on the social networking site is clearly having a better time than they are — right now.

Recent tweets from attendees at elite conferences like TED and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, have prompted bitter ripostes, accusing the authors of showing off rather than sharing. (From @davewiner: “can’t breathe their air, don’t want their tweets.”) Even those tweeting from warm weather spots have felt the jealous wrath — or “jealz,” in Twitter shorthand— of followers stuck in frosty climes. (@Courtni_ROSE: “I get it already!!!!”)

And this week, as thousands of the nation’s Twitterati gathered at the annual South by Southwest technology and music festival in Austin, Tex., their exhaustive, real-time accounts of barbecue, beta tests and Jake Gyllenhaal sightings have prompted a backlash by those not in attendance.

And then this week, there was more backlash against a recent Disney Social Media Moms conference where the majority of tweets seemed to be about the swag participants were getting on an already deeply discounted trip to Disney. The article notes:

Now that the conference is over, it’s clear that what stung SXSW also stung the #DisneySMMoms conference — that is: the high prevalence of Tweets about goodie bags and private parties contributed to a culture of exclusivity at the expense of information sharing.

It’s a fine line, isn’t it? If someone is providing me with something, be it a product or a service or an experience, I feel obliged to acknowledge that online. I get it, that’s part of the deal. But when does promotion end and bragging begin? How do you write / tweet about your excellent experience without alienating the very people who made you someone worth inviting?

This is a tricky one, and I feel like I have to step carefully through the minefield every time it comes up. I love sharing our experiences with you, but I don’t want to brag. I want to offer unbiased opinions and express my gratitude without alienating my friends who didn’t get the same treatment. I think the answer lies more in tweeting about the conference or event itself — the information you gleaned, the lessons worth sharing — and less about the awesome *stuff* you got.

I’m kinda all over the place here, aren’t I? And no time to go back and edit it into coherence either, so over to you bloggy peeps. What say ye? As tweeter, have you ever been self-conscious about tweeting your swag? As a reader, have you ever rolled your eyes at the good fortune of the chosen few? Should we be striving for inclusivity and if so, how do we do it?

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

15 thoughts on “On tweeting the fine line between promoting and bragging”

  1. Dani,

    I agree with you you need to acknowledge the event you are attending, but tweeting a laundry list of your swag probably not the best idea. Yes, getting free stuff from these places is nice, but if people want to acknowledge it then DM the company and let it go from there. I’ve turned off the retweets of a number of people (not you) because when person 1 says about the great time they are having or what they got persons 2-10 seem to think it needs retweeted. Hope I’m not rambling to much and I agree with you.


  2. This reminded me about a media buyer at an office I worked in. At Christmas time, she would receive a lot of gifts from radio stations, tv stations and other media.

    So throughout December, we would hear her announce very loudly every item that she received: “oh wow, a bottle of wine … amazing, tickets to Bryan Adams … oooh, dinner at a fancy restaurant downtown”.

    The rest of us bah-humbugged in silence.

  3. Having sat on both sides of the smart phone I can say that there are times when I feel left out. But I have to remind myself that I am an adult and life is like that. I loved it when my friends live tweeted BlogHer last year. Every little bit of it. I guess its because I knew I would never have attended and I only wished them the best. Fast forward a few months and there was the live tweeting of Blissdom Canada that had me in a funk for days. I so wanted to attend but couldn’t make it work (nursling just a bit too old to be dragged around to sessions and parties). I didn’t blame or get angry with any one person, but i did turn my phone off and try and step away. It all just looked like way too much fun while I was sitting at my messy dining room table with a baby stuck to my bewb.

    I will admit to having unfollowed people who seem to only “advertise” in their tweets. Intentional or not, it is annoying. I wouldn’t unfollow someone for a few tweets like that, but a constant stream…

    I guess my take on it is, if I don’t like what I see I turn the device off. Twitter is what it is, a PA system for peoples lives. Sometimes the stuff they do is fun, sometimes heart breaking. Sometime I feel pangs of jealousy, sometimes I can’t take the unbearable sadness of it. Most of the time it is mundane. I love it so I take it all. The good, the bad and everything in between.

  4. There’s a really interesting Wikipedia entry about it, actually – I looked it up because I wanted to get a better idea ofthe difference between envy and jealousy.

    I try hard to teach my kids not to be envious of others. It’s a tough lesson to teach, and to learn.

    Chantal, your comment was excellent. I think we’ve all been there, and a it’s good idea to turn off and step away. A small part of me was sad, for example, that I didn’t make it to Blissdom because everyone seemed to get having a great time. But hey, whatever. Envy is poisonous, and I choose to take the high road. I figure envy is in the eye of the beholder. If I am feeling a pang, it’s my cross to bear. It’s remarkable that when I’m feeling great about things in my life I never feel envious, it’s only when I’m at a low point. And it’s during times like that when I remind myself that I’m not in high school anymore and it’s time to move on.

  5. One of my twitter peeps sent me this comment via multiple DM (direct messages). She had good reasons for wanting to remain anonymous but I liked her comment so much that I asked her permission to reproduce it here:

    Can’t comment publicly right now on your post, but it raises excellent points. Figuring out how to ‘sleep’ TwitParty posts. Not envious…
    …but it seems awfully braggy, and ‘in your face’ we’re here and your not (a common sin of the mommy blogging set, and other communities)..
    I like many of the tweeters, but the eventy stuff is a PITA and stream-clogger.
    Worst of all, it’s not engaging, which is bad Twittiquette and anti-social, IMHO. Rant over. Tx for your post.
    To add: reporting an event by tweet is a better idea. I want to know what info I’m missing, not what freebies I missed. Big deal.

    I wanted to include it here because I agree that some of the swag- and event-related tweets *can* be rather obnoxious. It’s not about envy, it’s about the right way to repay a promotional obligation. Reading some of those tweets I can’t help but wonder — what’s the point, and is the event sponsor really gaining anything from these kinds of tweets?

  6. My personality doesn’t lend to itself to me being the type who would enjoy attending a big blog conference so when some of the people I follow on Twitter have in the past, I do live vicariously through them and enjoy reading their tweets about what they are learning or other bloggers they are meeting.
    As for all the tweets streams over the *swag* from sponsors etc., in some cases it can be a bit too much and there is a very defined line between being *gracious* and *gloating*

  7. I like the idea of reporting, not bragging. Give me just the facts-I don’t care what someone got for swag! Sure, we got free stuff from Kraft when I was there. But I’m not going to go around saying what it was. Seems kinda rude to do so.

    A group of friends and I are going to Blog her and we made a pact-none of us cares about the swag. If people want to mow each other down over laundry detergent, go ahead. We’ll go have a party somewhere else.

  8. So here’s the question I don’t think anyone has addressed — are we as recipients of stuff or services or privileges somehow obliged to tweet about it? Isn’t that why they give us stuff, so we’ll talk about it?

  9. i have been thinking about this post for a bit.

    i am still not sure what i think about things.
    i do not get upset about not being invited to things ( although i once got invited to something…and then was never given the final details and then got to live it detail by detail all night on my stream. that was a little weird ) because in real life you simply do not get invited to everything…there is just a smaller chance of you not knowing it;).
    i am not a blogger who blogs for profit or exposure or swag so i am not a prime target that way for anyone looking for impact ( which is what many of these things are geared toward )…but i am active socially so like to be in the know ( twitter life and in real life ).

    now, the thing about twitter is that there is a lot of implied familiarity with people – tons of twitter love flowing all the time ( a good thing, i am not being obnoxious ) so i think when events come up and not *everyone* gets invited? then feelings get hurt because the inclusionary environment that twitter fosters daily ( hourly? minute by minute?) suddenly does not necessarily apply. and that is what is upsetting, not even the particular event.

    what to do about it? get a thicker skin. that really is all there is to do, no? do something different, turn off the computer, feel happy for the people who are enjoying their evenings and sorry for those who are small enough to feel the need to flaunt their *good luck* ( ability to blog product? is that all that got them there in the first place?) through a play by play. at least that is how i deal with it.

    maybe if i was looking to grow my readership and make a profit, i would be feeling different…but even then my approach would be then to figure out how the hell to get an invite to the next event, how to get my name on those lists, how to get that product on my blog.

    and then as for swag responsibility? i am pretty sure these people want you to be writing about their products. my personal feeling? if it is not something that you will actively use or a product/service that you could talk about positively to your mom or something that you can fit into the daily feel of your blog without it feeling like a plug? don’t accept it. because when people write about a product for the sake of writing about a product and their own exposure? it feels fake. terribly so. i have a particular blog in mind that makes me cringe. i follow and unfollow it because there is good there…but at the same time, the way the writer jumps at any chance to blog product and make her life fit it? it is annoying. and you know it is paid for by a gift bag,lol.

    anyways. that is just me. i still like to be invited to things;), might not ever be after this,lol.

  10. So many great points, and so many great comments, and all I have right now is one thumb to type so I’ll jeep it short (and ignore the more entertaining typos).

    I have done the eye rolling, I would also unfollow if the need arose (but probably not for someone I actually converse with, you cut your friends slack, ya know? Besides, you’re more likely to just be happy for them anyhow).

    Something interesting is that I don’t remember feeling the least bit jealous over your FP photo shoot, even though it sounded fab. I think I may go look at it again, to figure out why. You know, for when my blog goes viral and I start getting buckets of swag ;).

    Oh, and while there are so many great points in the comments, I have to focus on Glen’s. Wow. Last time I worked within earshot of purchasing, we had a name for that swag: Christmas Party Doorprizes.

  11. Oh, and one more thing. I don’t think anyone is obliged to tweet about swag. They scatter it around, hoping some will. At YMC Winterlude, they were giving out facials in the hopes that some ppl would buy product, and that’s fine too, but there still is no obligation (hard-sell notwithstanding). I wonder if Disney will rethink their approach? I hardly think they’re interested in making people feel like ugly stepsisters.

  12. Last year there was a #HomeHer hashtag on Twitter during BlogHer. People (like me) who were at home tweeted jokes about OUR conference. It was actually fun, and made me feel much less bitter.

    I think it’s reasonable to tweet about where you are and what you’re doing – in moderation. I think that a constant stream about freebies is tedious. In all things, balance is key. And when you do feel left out, finding a way to turn that around can help.

  13. wow. all of the peopl above are much more mature and well rounded then i am. i do get envious of all the free stuff that people get and have taken several bloggers off my feed because they because somewhat obnoxious about it. when you commit an entire post to telling your readers how you are getting too many sales pitches that don’t fit your personal profil and how you really wish they would stop offering all that free stuff, to me, that crosses the line to obnoxious. and i actually stopped using twitter for quite a while because i was tired of only reading about all the swag people were getting. yes, i know grow up.

    to the question of your obligation if you are getting something? yes, i agree that the comapny is expecting you to use your social media influence to spread the word, but there is a way of doing it that is more about the info then about how you get it for free and how lucky am i? i thinkk you do it very well dani, hence the reason why you have remained on my blog feeder. 😉

  14. I joined twitter last year but really dont use it much anymore other than to enter contests. I found it way too clique-y and really did remind me of high school. No thanks!

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