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?

Twitter Clinic: 5 must-dos to get started with Twitter

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So you’ve been encouraged onto Twitter, signed up and created an account. Now what?

If you are brand new to social media, it can all seem a bit daunting, so here’s our top tips to get started…

  1. Upload a picture – There’s mixed opinion about whether business accounts should post a company logo or a photo of an individual, but everyone agrees that a picture of an egg (Twitter’s default) is a turn-off. You’ve joined Twitter to join the virtual cocktail party. Be aware of the dress code.
  2. Write a bio – While tweets are restricted to 140 characters, Twitter bios are a slightly more generous 160 characters. Continuing with the cocktail party analogy, think of your bio as how you would like to be introduced to people you would like to connect with… so that conversation doesn’t come to an abrupt end after your introduction!
  3. Find some peeps (or tweeps as they’re known on Twitter) to follow – Start with the individuals who encouraged you to sign up to Twitter and LinkedIn connections who have given Twitter usernames on their profiles. Assuming you have good relationships with the people you’re LinkedIn to, these follows will result in a trusted and forgiving network during your initial “lurk and learn”.
  4. Start tweeting – Silence is not golden on Twitter, but do be mindful that tweets are public and it’s difficult to delete your digital footprint. Think “old rules, new tools” – while you wouldn’t go to a physical cocktail party and not utter a single word the whole evening, you equally wouldn’t take centre-stage, grab a microphone, and start broadcasting your dirty laundry to everyone!
  5. Join the conversation – All means of accessing Twitter, be it the website itself or one of the various apps that sit on top of it, have reply functionality. (Confusingly for newcomers, this capability is officially termed mentions). If you see a question that you can help answer, or a tweet you have a cheeky retort for, hit reply (or mention) and join in. As @benasmith recently tweeted: “It’s called social media. Social. That requires interaction. Acknowledge another party. Don’t broadcast. Engage!”

Enjoy the party Smile If I’ve missed your favourite newbie tip, please leave your advice below…