Hashtags: Your Social Media Radar Screen and Magnet

Twitter Trending Hashtags
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Later today I’m giving a talk at an entrepreneur’s group about how you can get more benefit out of social media by using hashtags. I’ve found that these can be exceptionally valuable tools to connect with topics and people. They also can help you make yourself (or a topic, organization, or event that matters to you) much easier to find and connect with.

I’ll be fleshing out these ideas in a later blog post. But for now, here are my main points I intend to make — Plus some resources I will to demonstrate…

HASHTAG MONITORING TOOLS

Hashtags are a radar screen to pick up early on trends, emerging issues, events, breaking news, etc. Business intelligence, spotting opportunities, troubleshooting, etc.

Use a Twitter client or service that lets your monitor hashtag. Twitter search, Tweetdeck, Seesmic Desktop, Monitter, Twitterfall (article by Paul Bradshaw), and Twazzup.

Why not just monitor regular search terms, rather than hashtags? Use both, if you like! But search terms tend to be more inconsistently spelled or phrased and thus are more difficult to search for. Still, it can’t hurt. If I’m really into a topic, I’ll usually start my radar screen by monitoring several search strings (hashtags and not) and then hone in on where most of the action is. But when a community forms around a topic, one or more hashtags tend to crop up.

USE HASHTAGS ROUTINELY

Great way to get known as a go-to person on a topic.

Great way also to find smart, interesting, or important people on topic of interest to you. And to encourage serendipity based on your interests.

Popularity rules. Whatever hashtag is popular for a topic, use that. Like ad keywords: Use hashtags that reflect the perspective of the people you want to connect with.

Be specific: Easier to get reputation as the go-to person on a specific topic like #coalash, rather than a general one like #environment. Use both if you’re not well-known yet.

Try using hashtags in a sentence. Less awkward and more intuitive than jamming them all at the end.

If you see a hashtag and don’t know what it means, try looking it up in Tagalus or WTHashtag. If you don’t find it listed, @reply to the people using it and ask them what it’s about.

START HASHTAGS!

This is a great First search Twitter to see if it’s already in use. Don’t overlap current hashtags. Then register via Tagalus to make it easy for others to look it up.

Or tweet: @tagref: [#hashtag] is [definition, link]

More detailed listings: WTHashtag wiki — another good place to register hashtags.

If you have a company or brand that’s short, start & monitor the hashtag for the company name.

LIVE-TWEET EVENTS

Find out the event hashtag in advance, follow it, and use it for all your event tweets (including pre and post). Great way to get followers. They tend to stick around after the event.

Example: I recently called an event hashtag (#futurej) for a Senate subcommittee hearing on the future of journalism. Promoted it by searching for “future of journalism,” told those tweeters about the hashtag, and thanked people who used it. It caught on — About 900 tweets used it.

DELICIOUS TAGS ARE COMPLEMENTARY

For your radar screen, if you monitor a hashtag on Twitter, there’s probably a corresponding tag on Delicious. Use subscriptions function for tags on Delicious to expand your radar screen. My current Delicious tag subscriptions.

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