The what? The #, the hashtag, the symbol used on Twitter to group together tweets on a particular topic.
On quite a lot of TV shows nowadays, the voiceover or presenter will ask the audience to ‘tweet us’ using the hashtag #example’ so that you can join in the conversation online about your favourite programme, see what others are saying and maybe even get your tweet shown on screen or read out. Every day during the last series of ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ Ant and Dec asked their fans to tweet a word or phrase using the hashtag #antanddecswordup that they would then drop in the show. This was a really effective way of engaging with the fans and good use of a hashtag. But what about outside of the TV world?
If you are holding a conference or event, the hashtag is a great way of building a buzz in advance for the organisers, and for attendees to find out who else is going and to chat with them before, during and after. We at Owl always tell people where we are going on Twitter, even though in many cases they can hear us before they see us. But we always look for a relevant hashtag and tweet about it to see who else is going. And it works. We have met up with lots of people at networking events and functions from tweeting about it, the hashtag makes that interaction so much easier.
So, as organisers you need to make sure you let people know the hashtag in advance and encourage them to use it. It’s far less effective if attendees turn up on the day and you announce the hashtag to only the audience present (unless it’s the G8 summit and a closed shop). A missed hashtag is a missed opportunity.
The content of your hashtag is also key. Say for example you are holding a conference called ‘European Widgets for the 21st century’. If you tried to use
#EuropeanWidgetsforthe21stcentury as your hashtag, it would greatly eat into your 140 characters and leave little room for content and potential sharing through retweets. You would be better using #EW21 or #widgets21. The hashtag itself does not necessarily have to be meaningful to people outside of the industry/market as long as there is consistency. In the build up you can educate the audience with longer tweets saying, for example, ‘for the ‘European Widgets for the 21st century’ conference we will be using the hashtag #EW21’.
Before you decide on your hashtag do check it is not being used by anyone else. You may find that #EW21 means something entirely different to a whole other audience which may cause confusion, and embarrassment. Imagine a Twitter screen with all tweets being displayed and some random tweets appearing that have nothing to do with your event, #fail.
For Twestival Oldham we used the hashtag #twoldham. #twestivaloldham was too long and ate into the 140 characters. We wanted Oldham in there so it could be picked up by anyone searching for Oldham. So we came up with #twoldham, and when said with an Oldham accent it fitted. Can you hear it? Twoldham....to Oldham? Are you going #twoldham? Geddit?
When using hashtags, don’t overdo it #too #many #hashtags #spoils #a #tweet and serves no purpose. And certainly don’t hashtag random words like #don’t or #why #not. Random ones can be funny, from a personal account, but unless you are consistent with your corporate account and intend to use occasional humour don’t do it, #itlookssilly (see what I did there?)