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Hashtag it!

January 5th, 2012 · No Comments

A few days ago I tweeted out and asked if anyone had any Social Media topics they wanted covered. I got a tweet a few hours later from Ron Paynter (@payntacow) asking about hashtags in tweets. Ron asked a few questions (Below) which I will attempt to answer.

But hang on, what is a Hashtag??

Well the official definition according to Twitter is: The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorise messages. For example, if i used #agchatoz in a tweet, anyone that searches for the AgChatOZ hashtag will see my tweet

Basically the Q centred around using a hashtag that was already in use overseas but to make it easier (on me) I have split Ray’s questions up (My tips are at the end of the post if you want to skip right to them!)

Ron then went on to ask if it is the first person to use the tag, claims the tag or can anyone use it after that?

Well the simple answer is no, no one can put a claim to a particular hashtag as twitter is an open online meduim and anyone can use the hashtag in any tweet they like (as the #agchatoz tag has shown from time to time!)

Ron’s second question really gets to the heart of using a hashtag in your tweets, He asked “Is it first one using it gets the tag, weight of numbers using it prevail?” And the answer to this one is a resounding yes.

You only have to read the recent Qantas Hashtag story to see this in action, basically the story is Qantas was desperate to get some good PR after locking workers out and leaving passengers stranded, so they ran an online twitter comp with the hashtag #qantasluxury, The prize was a set of pyjamas (which they give away for free anyway!) and people had to tweet in with their luxury inflight experiences but the comp was hijacked by people tweeting about bad experiences with Qantas,

So while weight of numbers does play a big part, it can be a double edged sword as Qantas found out, while they were trending on Twitter it was for all the wrong reasons! (More info: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/qantas-makes-hash-of-tweet-campaign-20111122-1nsa4.html)

Ron’s third question was if they should go for a totally new unique hashtag.

Now there are a few advantages to going for a unique hashtag, Firstly the conference is far enough away that people will know what it is and you can promote it on flyers etc
The second advantge is its highly doubtful (but can happen) that someone else is using your preferred hashtag.
I would only advise a totally unique tag if you are confident that people will use your tag and you have publicised it, otherwise you might find yourself the only one using it!

Thats a very short rundown on hashtags, if you would like to know more or if I haven’t covered something in enough detail let me know via the comments and I’ll do my best to answer

And now for my little tips of advice for people wanting to use hashtags:

1 – Before you use a hashtag, find out if it used by others first!

If it is and your tweet fits in with it, great! Use it, A good example might be: ‘Drinking a lovely 09 Rose in Canberra, what are you drinking? #roserev’
In that case Im talking about Rose wine while using the Rose Revolution hashtag (which is trying to encourage more people todrink rose wine) to group my tweet with other tweets mentioning rose wine

Now a bad example would be: Have you seen the latest copy of #theland?
The hashtag i used has nothing to do with a rural newspaper in Australia that I was actually referring to (as you can see below)

Its a mistake to use the tag in this instance as it has no relevance to whats being spoken about on the tag stream already and doesn’t help people if they want to find more info or you interrupt a conversation thats being held.

Many (MANY!) Journos (Not necessarily any that work for rural papers though, it was an example) fall in to this hole as they are too lazy to do a little research in to the tag to see if it is relevant (I personally think it makes them look a little unprofessional and they loose credibility when they do it, if they cant research a hashtag, what is their research like on the story they are writing?)

2 – The shorter the hashtag the better!

While a hashtag like #agchatoz take up 9 spaces in your tweet (Remember you only get 140 spaces to tweet) its important to realise some people have trouble with getting what they need to say in 140 spaces and thats with out any hashtags at all!

Lets look at the tweet below:


It was during an AgChatOZ chat but there are 2 hashtags in their taking up a total of 29 spaces (the tag #ourfarmersourfuture takes up 20 spaces alone!!) which leaves someone who uses both only 111 spaces to tweet something, now added to that if they are replying to 1 or 2 people in the tweet that is a fair chunk of their tweet gone and they haven’t even got their message out yet.

So make it short, no one wants to use a hashtag only to find out that they have no space to tweet because the hashtag was too long!

3 – Make your hashtag easy to understand

While the hashtag #ADC2012 is short it doesnt mean anything for those not at the conference, The best hashtag is one which is easy to understand and makes people want to click on it to learn more.

Remember you can use capital letters to help identify words in hashtags, for example #AgChatOZ is a Chat about Ag in OZ

In Ron’s case I would reccomend a tag like #AusDairy, there are a few reasons for this:

  1. You can use the tag all year round and not just in the conference which could keep the conversation going
  2. You dont have to keep changing hashtags each year the conference is held like you would have to do if it had included the year eg ADC2012, ADC2013 etc
  3. The hashtag is quite small & easy to understand
  4. People reading over the tweets will be able to recognize that the tweet is about the Dairy Industry in Australia and either click to learn more or skip it while knowing what the tweet is about

Remember you can always use the #agchatoz tag if what you are talking about is Australian Agricultural related…

Thanks again for reading this VERY long post, I hope it made sense! Please feel free to ask questions etc in the comments below

~ Feel free to leave me a comment, if you cant see the spam picture, just enter any 6 letter/number combo in the box, and submit, it should work! ~

Tags: Social Media · Twitter

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