How to start a Twitter hashtag

More and more people are covering live events and breaking news via Twitter — and usually there are several Twitter users covering the same event. Hashtags are a handy tool for pulling together such disparate coverage.

A hashtag is just a short character string preceded by a hash sign (#). This effectively tags your tweets — allowing people to easily find and aggregate tweets related to the event being covered.

If you’re live-tweeting, you’ll want to know and use an appropriate hashtag. Earlier I explained why it’s important to propose and promote an event hashtag well before the event starts. But where do event hashtags come from?…

Doyle Albee, maven of the miniskirt theory of writing, asked me:

“I’ve used hashtags a bunch, but never started one. If, by some chance, there are two events (or whatever) using the same hashtag, does everyone searching just see both until one changes, or is there some sort of registration or vetting process?”

Here’s my take on this…

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Twitter Basics for Journalists & Recovering Journos

On Saturday, at the annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists, I gave a talk to an audience of mostly journalists explaining the basics of blogs, social media, and search visibility. People had lots of questions, more than I could get to in the session. I was getting stopped in halls, at parties, and even in bathrooms, to be asked things like, “Does it really make that big a difference if I blog under my own domain?” (Answer: Yes!)

OK, I don’t mind answering those questions. That’s really why I went to this conference — because I know that journalists (many of whom are facing potential layoffs, or who have already been laid off) are in dire need of online media awareness and skills.

So I’m going to do a bunch of posts answering questions, because it’s more efficient to do that via blogging. This is one of those posts.

By now you’ve probably heard about Twitter, the social media service that allows you to publish posts of 140 characters max.

What Twitter does, in a nutshell: This service allows you to receive posts (“tweets”) from other Twitter users whom you choose to “follow.” Likewise, other Twitter users can choose to follow you. When you follow someone on Twitter, their tweets show up in reverse chronological order in the “tweetstream” that scrolls down the Twitter home page when you’re logged in. The effect is somewhat like an ongoing Headline News version of what’s happening in the minds and worlds of people you know or find interesting.

Twitter also supports rudimentary public and private conversation between users.

THE VALUE OF TWITTER

In my experience, Twitter’s biggest payoff is that it allows you to gather a personal posse who can support you in powerful, flexible, speedy ways.

Also, if you’re choosy about the people you follow, Twitter can be quite an effective radar screen for news or relevant issues.

But there are many other potential benefits, especially for journos…

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