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How to use Twitter to keep a secret

By Dave Stevens

And so the 2012 Olympic Games have begun and I’m delighted to say that the British have finally come around to embracing it.  There’s a festival atmosphere across the country right now.  The cynical Brits have got an optimistic spring in our steps.  And it feels lovely.

There are probably a few factors involved in turning things around.  The weather has improved at last and there’s nothing like a bit of Vitamin D to perk us all up.  An arrogant Republican presidential candidate has popped over the pond to hurl abuse at our organisational skills, so we’ve all gone on the defensive.  And of course there was the little matter of yesterday’s rather marvellous – grand yet intimate – Opening Ceremony.

This is the first Games of the social media era and London 2012 embraced it.  The Opening Ceremony featured mobile phone calls, text messaging, and social networking and a wonderful star appearance by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

But what was especially interesting to me as a B2B marketer was the effort that the London Organising Committee (LOCOG) went to to use social media and e-marketing behind the scenes.

Crowds at the dress rehearsals for the Opening Ceremony ( were encouraged not to tell anyone about what they’d seen.  So far, so straightforward.   The ceremony depends much for its interest on the intrigue around torch-bearers, special guests, and so on.

But what was remarkable – and seemingly counter-intuitive – was that at the same time as being told to keep mum, the audience was given a special Twitter hash-tag to use to “save the surprise”.  On this chain,  there sat a few strategically placed posters to advocate the secrecy message and to apply peer pressure on fellow posters.  But that was all that was required.

So, Twitter was successfully used to stop people social networking about what they’d seen.  There was a social stigma created around anyone who considered blog blagging.

And the spirit soon spread.  Attendees refused to tell waiting journalists what they’d seen.  The surprise wasn’t spoiled.  Twitter was used to prevent tweeting.  That’s a very clever – and new age – approach to keeping a secret.

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Dave is an experienced global B2B Chief Marketing Officer / Marketing Director with an established reputation for delivering commercial results in start-up, mid-tier, and blue-chip businesses across technology, and business services and professional services sectors.

Dave has worked for major brands such as Telefonica O2, EY, and Barclays and held posts from Chief Marketing Officer to Director of Online, has run his own business, and managed a P&L for a major corporate. He is chair and co-founder of the Business Marketing Club ( - a network of B2B marketers. In 2019, he was named one of the top 100 B2B European marketing leaders ( He is a graduate of Cambridge University, a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Chartered Marketer and holds a MBA with Imperial College, London. Dave is a keen cyclist and adventure traveller, is married, and lives in Buckinghamshire. You can read his blogs at

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