February 9, 2011

SMUG Part 2: Power of the Hashtag

In October I helped with the first gathering of our Social Media Users Group (SMUG). This was an effort to inventory our social media strategies, and to help each program team brainstorm original content in order to reduce duplication. Much of our conversation revolved around the eight feeds that now make up our organizational Twitter presence.

Those disparate bits of conversation--splayed across giant 3M flip-chart paper and taking up residence in my office--have finally been synthesized into a couple of documents. Tomorrow we'll take on the pieces that relate to what I'm calling the Power of the Hashtag.

Hashtags are user-created metadata; what's not to love? The librarians among you will get that joke.

I've seen some bad Tweets in my time, and some of the worst have come from people I encouraged to join me in the Land of @ and #. I feel more than responsible for showing them the way. And not only do I want standards for this metadata, I want us to harness its power for good, and not for confusion/obfuscation/obscenity/randomness/fill-in-the-blank. I've also seen the hashtag used excellently. It continues to evolve.

For our second SMUG gathering we'll have two main points of focus. One is declarative: TWITTER SYNTAX IS TRICKY; USE CAUTION. I have a juicy little "What's wrong with this Tweet?" worksheet for this part. The other is a question to get the discussion rolling, with some pre-supplied flip-chart-able answers: Why use a hashtag?
TO RESPOND to a conversation.
(To be ironic.)*
*We're going to strongly discourage this type of hashtagging at work.

I hope our guests walk away knowing that you should never # when you can @ unless... (I have a decision flow-chart for this one.) If time permits we will get into cryptic conference hashtags and conventions for state names--both in terms of #NY versus #NewYork, and the relative value of Tweeting about our work in #Nebraska if we run the risk of getting drowned out by #Cornhuskers results.

When people feel comfortable with the basics, we might get into sponsored hashtag results (still investigating this), and link truncation woes when using the Tweet button from within a website. (Beware automation!) And now that we know the shortened form of the "via" convention, we have two extra characters to put to work--a temptation best resisted.

P.S. Blogger's spellcheck doesn't like "metadata" or "hashtag".

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