By now, five years into the Twitter‘s short life, there are likely thousands of hashtags that have been logged on the popular microblogging service. Hashtags (a tag embedded in a tweet posted prefixed with a hash sign), is the most popular way to index content on Twitter. For an event, it is the preferred way of aggregating content and followers from an event under one “directory” for everyone to follow. Until Twitter invents another system of indexing and organizing tweets, Hashtags is it.
The other day I was reviewing one of the events posted on Our Calendar, The World Library Congress 77th IFLA General Conference & Assembly taking place in Puerto Rico, August 13-18th. The event’s website was standard, business-as-usual until I came across this bit of text on the registration page:
Since the Landscape Architects’ IFLA insists on using ifla2010, ifla2011, etcetera in their (hash)tags, we are changing ours to:
- #wlic2011 for Tweets, and
- wlic2011 in other social media.
Tweets and Posts
Please use the hashtag #wlic2011 in your Tweets.
For blog posts, Flickr photos, slideshare presentations, etcetera, please use the similar wlic2011.”
Ouch. It appears we have a “Hashtag knife-fight” that has made its way from the “tweet streets” all the way back to the event website. The event organizers of this World Library Congress event are clearly frustrated by the fact that The International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) Conference has not only co-opted their hashtag #ifla2011, but that they refuse to stop using the hashtag despite World Library Congress’ efforts to claim the hashtag for their own event. As a matter of fact, the event organizers go out of their way to let us know that Landscape Architects “insists” on using the hashtag. There were likely words, exchange of emails… we’ll never know.
How could this hashtag conflict have been avoided?
Someone dropped the social media branding ball. Event organizers often create hashtags with little thought as to whether another event is using the same (or very similar) hashtag. Neither website does an effective enough job at incorporating their hashtag ID into the text and title of the site. When I arrive at an event’s site, I should not have to search for the hashtag (especially since it’s the all-important link to real-time conversation about the event).
It’s easy to see how hashtag conflicts can happen. Because there’s no official Twitter service governing the distribution of hashtags, claiming one for your event is as easy as simply saying, “Mine!” (like The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889). Here are a few tips to avoid this same hashtag horror story from happening to your event:
- The early bird gets the
wormhashtag. Claim your hashtag as early as possible when planning your event. Immediately after establishing the complete, formal name of the event, begin the process of establishing the event’s hashtag.
- Research, research, research. Though they are by no means official, third-party services such as Tag Def and Hashtags.org are free search directories for Twitter hashtags. Because you can’t be sure how up-to-date these services are with indexing hashtags, always rely on Twitter Search to see if the hashtag you’d like to use is already in use (or has been recently used). Keep in mind that Twitter dumps all hashtag content after several days (so if an event used the same hashtag as your event a month ago, you won’t see any tweets from the event and the hashtag will appear to be available). For extra measure, always use Google Search as well (which has the full Twitter fire-hose and keeps tweets available for viewing longer than Twitter).
- Choose a hashtag name that is as close of an acronym to your event name as possible and add the year of the event at the end of it. This is where World Library Congress could’ve done better. They chose “IFLA2011″ (which is the exact acronym for another event and doesn’t reflect reflect theirs — the emphasis in the name of their event is on the even brand “World Library Congress”, not IFLA). The hashtag they settled on, #wlic2011, is far more appropriate. Also, remember not to be too vague. There are some hashtags that will forever be co-opted by events. Tech conferences have tech hashtags on lockdown. If your event is named “Tech Conference New York 2011″, don’t even think for a second that #techny2011 is available!
- Once you’ve chosen a hashtag, incorporate the hashtag into the title of the event. We can’t stress this enough with event organizers. By including the hashtag with the title of the event on all logo placement and branding, you effectively claim the hashtag, allow Google and the other search engines to index that hashtag with your event forevermore and you make it easy for people to find your event’s content in all social media.
- Create a Google Alert for your hashtag so that you can be notified immediately if another event begins to use your hashtag.
- Send a social media email blast to your attendees informing them of the event’s official hashtag and ask them to give the event a shoutout on Twitter using the hashtag so that the hashtag can actually be used (very important). Additionally, create content and link it to the hashtag.
Ultimately, to the victor (or better brander) goes the hashtag. Brand early, brand creatively, brand consistently (using the same hashtag across all social media platforms), and most of all get your event’s community to help you to populate your hashtag with great content (send tweets to exhibitors, attendees and guest speakers, tweet polls and presentations, etc., with the new hashtag).
Hashtag conflicts can and should be avoided. Can’t we all just get along?
- Smart Businesses Watch Conference Hashtags (tourism-tech.com)
- The art of the pithy hashtag (bbc.co.uk)