"What is actually the difference between a '@' and a '#' on Twitter?" It may seem like a silly question, but a lot of people still secretly seem to struggle with this question.
A good hashtag, in other words the '#', can be a very powerful tool with regard to your conference or event. In this article, there are five principles to determine the ideal hashtag for your event.
What is a hashtag?
A hashtag is literally a 'label' that you use in a Twitter message, always starting with a '#'. So it’s not something that's very technical, but simply something a person should enter manually when he or she writes a message. Anyone can at any time come up with a hashtag and put it to use. You can therefore not 'claim' or own a hashtag.
The 'label' can have two functions:
- It can put a message in context, such as the 'subject' does in an e-mail. For example, '#enjoyment' if you enjoy something or '#inspiration' if you find something inspiring.
- It can serve as a virtual meeting place for everyone who writes about a particular topic. For example, '#tvoh’ for all messages about the TV program The Voice of, and '# IMEX13' for all messages about the IMEX trade show.
The latter in particular is interesting with regard to conferences and events. By searching a hashtag on Twitter, participants will find other people that have participated in the past, writing about the event during the event or after the event. Networking begins before the event, intensifies during the event, and continues afterwards even when it is over! Provided of course that you, as event planner, have enabled this properly.
How to choose a clever hashtag?
When choosing a hashtag, keep the following principles in mind:
- Keep it short: you are limited to 140 characters when writing a message on Twitter, and the length of the hashtag is included in every message. It is thus prudent to work with an abbreviation such as '# tvoh'.
- Keep it recognizable: one disadvantage of an abbreviation is that the name of your event or brand may no longer be recognizable. Whilst from a marketing perspective, it is actually very interesting that when people write messages for Twitter, their entire network 'discovers’'your conference or event.
- Keep it logical: there is probably already a hashtag for your event that is really obvious. And perhaps it is already in use by participants, without you knowing. Use it also. A bad example was the MARCOM event this year, which tried to launch the hashtag '#comeshare'. However, visitors were already used to '#MARCOM10' and '#MARCOM11' etc in recent years. Remember: the 'community' ultimately determines what the hashtag will become, you as an event planner can only try and influence that.
- Keep it unique: since anyone at any time can start using a hashtag, in choosing your hashtag you should investigate whether other people in the world are not already using your hashtag. That would create unnecessary 'noise' when your participants try to find each other. For example, it is problematic for the BNR radio station that the '#BNR' hashtag is full of Indonesian messages because this is apparently a word in that language.
- Keep it durable: one way to make a unique hashtag is by adding the year. Such as '#Event13', '#IMEX13' or '#FRESH13'. However, when promoting the hashtag, it will not be sustainable and representative of your event year after year. Banners, flags and signs with your hashtag can thus only effectively be used once. And besides, you want your target audience to communicate with each other throughout the year.
When you test your hashtag according to the principles above, you will realize that Twitter can suddenly become a very valuable addition to your conference or event. The bringing together of people is, after all, one of your main objectives, not so?
Freelance Project Manager, Entrepreneur and networker with a passion for events and Social Media. Gerrit is partner of How Can I Be Social (HCIBS), co-founder of Triqle Event Intelligence, board member of the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) in the Netherlands and professional speaker.