Hashtag Hijinks

The recent explosion in Twitterland is an awesome thing. More and more people are signing on to the World 2.0 revolution, and the more, the merrier.

It can be hard to avoid that ‘I’ve been here for a year and a half’ mentality when people – but more often, businesses – make rookie mistakes. I’m not one to chime in and make people feel dumb for making an honest, learning-the-ropes gaff – on the contrary, the more mistakes people make, the quicker they will learn. But the surge in the Zeitgeist makes these errors more visible, en masse.

Take for instance the NBC affiliate in my area, which is probably making the greatest, quickest strides in terms of social media among all of the regional news outlets. They’re doing everything right, just about – conversing instead of advertising, releasing relevant information at relevant times, and following other businesses as well as competitors and individuals. In short, I think they get it.

Nevertheless, some local Tweeps still schooled them in 4.5 seconds flat when the station used the hashtag #wmtu to refer to Western Massachusetts. (it actually refers specifically to Western Mass. TweetUp events.)

No worries – while this underscores that there is a definite etiquette to be considered, and plenty of gatekeepers making sure this happens, it was a small goof that illustrated the station’s understanding of region-centric hashtags. Hell, of hashtags all together.

In the spirit of collaboration, here are a few small tips for new Tweeps. And by the way, glad to have you.

– Talk! Ask questions! Answer questions! Share cool article links, and even the occasional joke. But don’t just Tweet links to your next costly event. It’s boring, and the Zeitgeist does not like to be solicited.

– Follow. Find Tweeps you want to hear more from, and feel free to jump right in and be one of their newest fans. Chances are, if you have something interesting to say, they’ll follow you, too.

– Another note on hashtags – these are keywords that you draw attention to (for the sake of the reader as well as the search engines) by preceding them with a hashtag, or pound sign: #. Each day, you’ll notice a list of ‘trending topics’ on Twitter’s right sidebar. These are usually the result of many people using hashtags in their Tweets, so the terms might refer to a little Twitter game (what’s your favorite #StarWars character?), a daily news item (#earthquakes continue in China!), or a pop culture reference (#Oprah). Hashtags are a great way to find Tweeps in your general area too, be it professional, geographic, or otherwise. Some examples from my neck of the woods include #wmtu (Western Mass. TweetUps), #pcwm (PodCamp Western Mass, the best social media event from Boston to NYC), #westernma (refers to anything happening in the area), and #TwitterQueens (a very cool network for girl-Tweeps, with strong ties to Massachusetts).

Published: Friday, 8 May 2009


writerjax‘ left this comment on 9 May 09
Excellent point, not to mention the space they sometimes take up in an already truncated space. Any thoughts on what will replace this method, or how we can improve on it?

jpo‘ left this comment on 8 May 09
The #wmtu mixup illustrates the problem of namespace collisions with hashtags. To be useful, a hashtag has to be fairly unique, but it’s tough to come up with something that’s memorable, short, and unique. So we end up with tags that could refer to the Western MA Tweetup or Western Michigan Technical University or the Women’s Malaysian Teacher’s Union or whatever. Nobody really “owns” the tag, so the Malaysian teachers are just as entitled to use it as the Massachusetts tweeters.

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