We’ve been spending a lot of time analyzing Twitter hashtags lately. For instance, see our analyses of #HRTechConf, #truLondon and #wdayrising, respectively the official hashtags for the HR Technology® Conference and Exposition, The truLondon Technology® Recruiting Unconference and the Workday® Rising Conference.
During the process, we’ve noticed conference and webinar producers that are using hashtags intelligently—like the examples above—to maximize the Twitter conversation. But we’ve also noticed others that are making mistakes that are reducing the Twitter conversation, and, as a result, the visibility of and buzz around their events.
To help you avoid the same fate, here are six hashtag best practices:
1. It’s Important To Create Your Own Hashtag
Hashtags may not seem that important: after all, they are just words or collections of letters with a “#” symbol in front of them. But hashtags provide a convenient way of grouping messages on Twitter and other social sites. They serve as virtual meeting rooms for people to hold discussions. Users can search for and/or group hashtags; this isolates the conversation around a particular subject for easy viewing.
Because hashtags make it easier to follow conversations, they encourage more discussion. If you are a webinar producer, it’s important to announce an official hashtag, as there may be little or no Twitter conversation without one; the announcement lets people know that a conversation is taking place, and that they can join it. If you are a conference producer, it’s important to announce an official hashtag for a different reason: if you don’t, your attendees may create one—or several. The latter situation can cause mass confusion and frustration.
Ultimately, having an official hashtag will allow you to more easily monitor, participate in, and analyze the conversations taking place about your event.
2. Make Sure Your Hashtag Isn’t Already Used
You don’t want to create a hashtag only to find that is used frequently for other Twitter conversations. An already-used hashtag may be worse than no hashtag at all, as it can make it highly frustrating to follow a conversation when it is frequently interrupted and muddled by another. This results in two frustrated audiences, and the conference or webinar host looks bad to both. So when you have an idea for a hashtag, search for it on Twitter to ensure it isn’t already in regular use. You can also use sites like http://twubs.com to both search for hashtag availability and register your hashtag.
3. Don’t Make Your Hashtag Too Long
Since a tweet is limited to 140 characters, you don’t want a hashtag that uses up a ton of space. A long hashtag can significantly reduce conversation, as it makes it difficult to stay under the character limit. Other effects include less linked content and fewer retweets and referenced tweets. It also makes you look like you don’t understand Twitter.
4. Once You Pick A Hashtag, Keep Using It
Many conference and webinar holders change their hashtag for each new edition of the conference or webinar; sometimes the hashtag is entirely new, or in many cases, the year is incorporated in the hashtag, so it has to be updated each year. Changing your hashtag doesn’t make sense to us; it is somewhat like changing your website’s URL or your phone number. Doing so means people have to find you all over again. Instead, choose a hashtag and keep using it over time; so make sure to give it some thought, as you and others, one would hope, will be using it a lot.
5. Promote Your Hashtag Aggressively
Many conference and webinar holders create a hashtag that would be effective, only to hurt themselves by not promoting it on materials related to their events. As a result, they might as well not be using the hashtag. They’ve set up a virtual conference room, but not informed anyone they can use it. To avoid this, make your official hashtag a visual part of your materials (event fliers, registration materials, business cards, email footers, show signage, speaker slides, etc.), and include it when mentioning your webinar or conference on social media and elsewhere. Also, this is important, prominently display it on the event’s registration page. Encourage use before, during and after the event.
6. Drive Your Hashtag’s Conversation
Another common mistake conference and webinar producers make is not participating in the Twitter conversation related to their official hashtags. This can result in Twitter silence, or just isolated chatter, which makes it look like people aren’t engaged with their events. Frequently, a conversation needs a moderator or a leader. Bill Kutik, who is stepping down this year after a long tenure at the helm of the HR Technology® Conference and Exposition, is great at this in the #HRTechConf conversation. Our hashtag analysis shows that he has both tweeted the most and been mentioned the most, and that the number of tweets per week is already skyrocketing even though the conference is still almost a month away. If you want a great case study example in how to effectively integrate social media into an event, follow the #HRTechConf hashtag (an easy way to do this is through our webpage that analyzes it).
For more information on hashtags and the sites that support them, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashtag.
We hope this post was useful or interesting to you. If you are interested in learning more about HRmarketer Software and our HR data analysis tools, please contact us.