Hiring Twitter to Create A Curated Experience

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reading this Harvard Business Review post about three ways to use Twitter, it struck me that we are just beginning to realize how consumers and businesses can use Twitter.

I'd like to extend the knowledge base a little by writing about some things I have done with Twitter and how they have helped the work I do every day.

The HBR blog post recommends "talking" as the best way to use Twitter:

Talk. Get your voice in the mix to build a following. But, don't just yammer on about how great your company and products are. Give your customers something useful, such as special offers or information.
Yes, this is absolutely correct, but with the building out of Twitter in its new form, there are a few more methods that you need to extend your practice to beyond talking. I am going to talk about one of these practices today, in the hopes that it will help you use Twitter for your business or your own social engagement online.

Hashtag Management

Hasha who?  What are hashtags in Twitter?

Hashtags are a way to organize information so that you -- and 200 million other people -- can find information later. Think of it as tagging in a blog post. You use them to organize information and aggregate it in real time, so that people who are interested in a specific category or idea can find it using search. The benefit is that they can also find you, if you are one of the first, or the only Twitter user to use a specific hashtag.

For example, I use the #rewired hashtag to organize some of the links that I send out on Twitter. When I go back to the Twitter main site and search for #rewired, some of my links and conversation come up in the search, making it easy for me to spot not only what I said the other day, but what other people are saying about #rewired.

As you can see, it's not a perfect science. Other people can use the same hashtag independent of your use. It's best to pick a hashtag with a very unique character set, but identifiable enough that people can remember it and use it without it being awkward.

In addition, here are other things to remember about using hashtags:

1. It works best when the hashtag is focused on a real time event, like a conference or a moment in time.  For example, if you are at the Summit on Consumer Goods Innovation, you could use the hashtag #Congood2011. Easy to remember, and it even has the date in there. This also works for live chats on Twitter or for webinars that you host on your business site or your personal blogs.

2. Don't make your #hashtag too long. Yes, there are some online hipsters out there that like to use ironic and sarcastic hashtags, but they are just being funny. #ohlookhowironicIamhipstersrock If you make the hashtag too long, it interferes with people's abilities to retweet (RT) your links and your messaging.

3. Make sure you tell people you are starting a hashtag. When you set up a conference, or an online webinar, or some kind of live Twitter hashtag chat, make sure you give fair warning that you are designating #Twitchat or whatever you want to call it as the curating hashtag. Otherwise, you will get dozens of tweets asking about the hashtag and wondering who is controlling its name. And then you might end up getting three or four hashtags started by creative people who mean well but are sticking it in the muck.

That's all for the hashtag lesson today. I'll be back later in the week with other ideas on how you can hire Twitter to work for your business.

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