Making a hash of hashtags

I go to a lot of conferences, and they all have hashtags associated with them. Organisers have realised that enlisting tweeters to help them publicise the event, and also to generate a buzz about is, is a great way to get very cheap PR.

Hashtags are important on twitter.  They used to be crucial, as they were the only way of finding who else had tweeted about a particular topic. Now you can simply search twitter by free text, so if you know your keyword you can type that in and get a set of results back. So tagging in twitter now technically does not need the hash part of the tag.

But hashtags are persistent as they are part of the culture of twitter and the # at the front of a tag signifies to people that this is a keyword to help others find what you are tweeting about. So they are not going away anytime soon. In fact like the @ in email addresses which shares a common lineage in being a little used ASCII character press-ganged into a form of digital national service, they may last forever.

But the selection of the specific hashtag is crucial, and that’s where a mini rant kicks in here.  All too often the hashtags selected by conference organisers are too long.  The hashtag needs to be long enough to be unique, but then no longer than that as it eats into the 140 characters needed to tweet.  If the conference you were at was BDR (this is an arbitrary acronym I made up for illustration purposes), then #BDR12 is a pretty good tag as it is short and sweet and the 12 bit at the end neatly sums up in two characters that this is an annual event. #BDRannual12 is a #fail as the ‘annual’ part is redundant, and #BDRannualconference12 is a spectacular because it’s too long and too clumsy to be usable.

So people, select your hashtags carefully, remember that tweeters have only 140 characters to play with. If you are a marketing type person who is not sure about this, then ask the people coming to the conference on twitter what the hashtag should be.  They’ll come back with a crowdsourced answer for the best (AND SHORTEST) solution.

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