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Hashtags make or break an event (on Twitter, that is)

(Original post at www.kristyfifelski.com.)

It should simply be another step in the event management process to select and promote an appropriate Twitter hashtag for any contemporary event.

I attended the 2010 Women’s Summit in Reno, Nevada, on June 1. Attendees were very excited for keynote speaker Michelle Obama and several expert panels, and were tweeting up a storm with notable takeaways and observations. But with no formal hashtag announced, we used what personally seemed logical to us. Several threads emerged, such as #nvws, #wms, #nvwomen, and #nvws2010. Finally, prolific tweeter Nevada legislator @DavidBobzien noted this and sent out a tweet to get us all using the same hashtag. I’m not sure that all events are lucky enough to get their hashtags sorted out midstream.

Promoting a hashtag is simple, and we should be using them nowadays even for government special events. Include it at the bottom of your press releases and post it on other social media channels of course. Have an event organizer be the official tweeter from the organizing agency perspective (here is a great example of how the USGS displays their Tweet Chat Archive. On GovLoop, Scott Horvath recommends setting up a second Twitter account specifically for event tweeting – don’t want to annoy your regular followers with all your event tweets). I spoke at a SCAN NATOA conference last week, and they placed the hashtag on the PowerPoint slide attendees saw as they filtered in the room. Good idea.

Make a hashtag announcement at the start of the event

Make an announcement about the official event hashtag when you do the other typical housekeeping items at the very start of an event. The obvious reason is so attendees know what hashtag to use, but a secondary reason is because it’s another opportunity to show the audience that you are hip to how people are using social media.

Not only would making an announcement encourage twitterers who have only tweeted maybe a few times to participate, it also lets the rest of the audience know what everyone else is doing. Many times I’ve been more actively engaged in the event content by tweeting than the regular listener is, but I get displeased looks from others simply because they think I’m playing around on my phone and not paying attention to the speaker.

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Scott Horvath

Thanks for the reference to the tweet chat archive. It’s definitely an easy way to let people see the event tweets if they missed them during the live event. It’s also a great way to see notes from the event if they’re done well. One of the others things that can be done is linking to the tweet archive on any news releases that had originally announced the event.

Ron Pringle

Good advice. This is exactly what we did for NAGW’s conference last year, with great success. We’ll be doing it again this year, using #NAGW2010 as the hashtag for our National Conference.

Bill Brantley

This is good stuff! Have you read Cliff Atkinson’s The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever?