Twitter Clinic: A hashtag case study

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Yesterday, inspired by a new starter at CubeSocial, I shared my 5 must-dos to get started on Twitter.

I deliberated about whether or not to include hashtags (so called because they start with the # symbol) so wasn’t surprised when @lexi_pop highlighted how “hashtags had me stumped for a long time… I didn’t understand how to follow or check if a hashtag was already in use” and @JasonComer explained to other newbies that “these tags link together tweets from across the globe and connect you to others tweeting similar issues”.

I think of hashtags as labels which identify tweets, so that you can find likeminded peeps (tweeps as they’re known on Twitter) and conversations of interest. If Twitter is a virtual cocktail party, hashtags are the virtual equivalent of colour-coded name badges. Hashtags are user-generated, so are only limited by the length of a tweet (140 characters) and your imagination. As I write #thegrammys, #verysexy and #notsexy are topping UK Twitter’s trending topics list!

When you click on a hashtag you see the most recent tweets on that topic. You can read what others have tweeted, join in the discussion and/or identify tweeps of interest, who you might follow. And with my Twitter stream currently buzzing with questions and comments about #Lex2011tweetup, what’s better than a current scenario to illustrate how hashtags work…

Lex 2011 (http://www.lex2011.co.uk/) is a strategy conference for the legal profession. @BrianInkster is one of the speakers and we’ve been trying to coordinate a tweet-up (a real world meet-up that occurs as a consequence of Twitter) since the then ground-breaking “how lawyers are using social media” conference call: http://blog.cubesocial.com/2010/01/how-uk-lawyers-are-using-social-media/

Using #Lex2011, our conversation quickly widened to include other tweeting speakers, and a tweetup date was added to diaries. A few mutual friends (people who follow us both on Twitter) picked up on our use of these hashtags and were added to the attendee list:

#Lex2011 @BrianInkster @LindaCheungUK
#speakers @ChristianUncut @SteveKuncewicz @damienbehan
#mutualfriends @markbower @Ju_Summerhayes @beej777 @nipclaw

With a month to go until #Lex2011, @BrianInkster and I started talking about venues for our tweetup, with Brian selflessly offering to undertake a reconnaissance of the 40+ venues nearby! These tweets coincided with #FF (Follow Friday – where friends recommend other tweeps) and those who challenge me weekly to keep up the standard of my tweets with #nopressure asked why they hadn’t been invited, which lead to other mutual friends asking to be added to the attendee list:

#FF #nopressure: @gavward @michaelscutt @AjeetMinhasGTB
#mutualfriends: @jonathanlea @thenakedlawyer @shireensmith @legaleagleMHM

Use of #Lex2011tweetup was suggested sometime during these exchanges, to distinguish from the conference itself – which led to further questions about what this break-away event was, who was organising it, when and where. Through our use of hashtags, an informal tweetup become a twegal party!

#joiningtheparty @london_law_firm @ MaasJonathan @chrisdaleoxford @HeatherTowns @JohnAFlood @IkenCEO

#apologies @Oxfordlawyer @vicmoffatt

Clicking on #Lex2011tweetup now, I see that @BrianInkster is also talking to @vidocq_cc @Charonqc @law4mumpreneurs @ClareRodway, while @DeferoLaw asks “are invites to #Lex2011tweetup open or is there a special handshake needed?”

#Lex2011tweetup is an open event on Wednesday 16th March. We’re thinking circa 6pm, in the Holborn/Kingsway area. Use the hashtag to let us know you’re coming, and keep your eyes peeled on the hashtag for venue details from @BrainInkster. No special handshake required!

Now that you can see how hashtags can work, don’t you just love them?

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