Hashtags: Your Social Media Radar Screen and Magnet

Twitter Trending Hashtags
Image by mobatalk via Flickr

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…

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Live-tweeting an event? Set your hashtag UP FRONT!

I do a lot of live event coverage via Twitter, and I also follow a lot of events (especially conferences) via Twitter. One thing I’ve learned: It helps your Twitter audience immensely if, before the event (or at the start) the people tweeting it develop a consensus on the hashtag for the event.

That’s what Horn Group VP Susan Etlinger did earlier, for the PR/Blogger panel her company is hosting tonight. She’s one of several Twitter users who helped launch this hashtag simply by adopting and promoting it:

Susan Etlinger helps launch a hashtag by using it.

Susan Etlinger helps launch a hashtag by using it.

And here’s the fruit that this kind of coordination can bear: Check out the #PRblog hashtag

…So: what’s a hashtag, and why is this so important?…

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Lunar Eclipse, via Flickr

Cheetah100, via Flickr (CC license)
Last night’s total lunar eclipse.

Last night, after a day of mostly overcast skies in Boulder, CO, the clouds finally dissolved around 3am leaving a clear view of the total lunar eclipse. I was out in my driveway with my husband, who’d set up his whompous Meade LX 90 12-inch telescope, and was thrilled to see the moon “get eaten away” and turn blood red.

The most lyrical explanation I found of why the moon turns red during a total lunar eclipse is from this Science@NASA story: “With the Sun blocked, you might expect utter darkness, but no, the ground at your feet is aglow. Why? Look back up at Earth. The rim of the planet seems to be on fire. Around Earth’s circumference you see every sunrise and sunset in the world — all at once.”

I used that same explanation to my spellbound six-year-old neighbor, who (along with his mom) joined us at the scope for an unforgettable hour of viewing and discussion. He totally got it — including when I pointed at the ground to show him where the sun was: “Think through the earth,” I said. “OK, I can do that,” he replied seriously. He was quite taken with the eclipse.

Of course this morning I wanted to see photos of the eclipse from around the world, so I went to Flickr. I found lots of great photos from last night’s eclipse. Many of them include, in captions, people’s experiences of seeing this eclipse. Worth checking out. My very favorite is this one (you’ve gotta read the caption).

I’m finding that when something visually interesting happens, I tend to go straight to the photo-sharing sites to see first-hand independently produced images — often before I go to mainstream news coverage of the event. Especially with something like an eclipse.

The thing is, when you view an eclipse it’s generally a very personal experience. It’s not just looking out into space, but having a sense of where you are standing, and what the viewing conditions are there. It’s an intriguing personal connection with space — but it’s basically about two points in space.

In contrast, browsing Flickr the day after an eclipse lets you experience the eclipse through others’ eyes (well, at least their cameras) from wherever it was visible around the globe. This goes beyond the connecting of two mere points, and your perspective on the eclipse expands.

Worth a look.

Social Bookmarking in Plain English, and then some

Over at CommonCraft, Lee LeFever recently published a great basic video tutorial, Social Bookmarking in Plain English. Here it is:

Video thumbnail. Click to play
Click To Play

Of course, there’s more you can do with social bookmarking than what Lee describes — he was just trying to cover the bare basics. For instance, you can use del.icio.us, a popular social bookmarking tool, to automatically create a daily post to your blog of all the links you’ve bookmarked in the last 24 hours. This is how I generate my links posts.

To do that, in your del.icio.us account click “settings.” Then under the “blogging” heading, click “daily blog posting.” After that you’ll have to fill in some geeky information. This feature only works with certain blogging tools, and it usually takes a little trial and error to get it working right, but it can be a great easy way to post more often to your blog while also getting all the other benefits of social bookmarking (which Lee’s video explains well).Now, if you use del.icio.us to create daily linkblog posts, then you’ll soon discover that you might want to have more than one del.icio.us account — one for posting links to your blog, and another for other stuff you want to remember and share but not necessarily post to your blog. If for that reason or any other you have more than one del.icio.us account, a hassle-free way to manage them is to get the del.icio.us complete add-on for the Firefox browser. I’ve been using that for a couple of years, and it’s brilliant.