So you want to create your own hashtag?
By Kathryn Hambleton
Coming up with your own hashtag can be a lot of fun. You want to think of something catchy, and watch it take off and grow out there on the internet. But what strategy considerations are there for choosing hashtags?
Anytime you select a hashtag, there are a few considerations:
- What do you want to do with a hashtag?
- Does it make sense, without using too many characters?
- Is the hashtag currently used by others?
What do you want to do with a hashtag?
Hashtags can be used for several different purposes, and the purpose often determines your hashtag choice. Generally, hashtags are used to categorize content and/or to participate in a community conversation.
- You can find helpful information to prevent the Flu from Flu.gov under #FluTips , and information about various product recalls under #Recall .
- The folks at Usability.gov are using #usabilityreboot to engage their audience, categorize content, and start a conversation with a community.
- Conferences, twitter chats, and other events also use hashtags to categorize content based on specific sessions, so that each session or series is assigned its own unique hashtag, such as #CDCchat .
- The hashtag #gov20 is used by the community of government professionals interested in applying technology to innovation in public service. The #gov20 hashtag is not necessarily used by any particular source, but by Twitter users interested in the topic.
So, if you want to join a community conversation, choose a hashtag that is already used by the community. If you’re not sure what a hashtag means or stands for, visit tagdef.com to find out. If you want to categorize your content for the convenience of others, see the tips below for choosing your own hashtag.
And of course, many people also use hashtags just to get a chuckle out of others- kind of like the people who use hashtags on Facebook. #OMG
Does it make sense, without using too many characters?
Often in government, we use acronyms that mean something to us, but may mean something different, or nothing at all, to others. Using real words is much more effective in gaining traction from people interested in your programs. You are also faced with the 140 character limitation, and actually about 120 if you want to leave room for others to retweet your content, so try to use a hashtag with the minimum number of letters necessary to make sense.
Example: #OHS is nice and short, and could be used for the Office of Head Start, or it could be for O’Connor High School. The hashtag #HeadStart is probably more meaningful to those interested in Head Start programs, and it is still short enough to be manageable.
What do you get when you do a search for your prospective hashtag?
It is possible that another community or Twitter user has beaten you to it and is already using the awesome hashtag you had in mind. It is also possible that the hashtag you had in mind is also related to catchy lyrics in a new pop song. Find out by trying each of your brilliant hashtag ideas in the search box on Twitter.com . You want to keep the content focused on your topic, instead of sharing the spotlight.I If looks like there is a lot of unrelated clutter with your prospective hashtag, just keep brainstorming and checking those ideas.
What do you do once you have your awesome hashtag?
Depending on the topic and purpose, there are directories where you can submit your hashtag, such as this one for healthcare , and this one from SAMHSA. If your hashtag is related to an event, be sure to include it in your promotional materials, print products, and even PowerPoint slides related to the event. If it is related to content on your website, consider having it in a 120 character bite on your page ready for people to tweet with one click, or just including the hashtag on the part of your site related to that content.
You want people to use your tag and to find it useful, and you can use these tips to get started, but the best way will always be to start with awesome content. It is also possible to overuse hashtags, so make them meaningful and try to stick to only 1 or 2 per tweet.
What other hashtag tips do you have to share? Do you have experience successfully using your own hashtag, or do you have lessons learned from a hashtag that did not work out so well?
Kathryn Hambleton is a New Media Strategist. His full office location acronym is HHS/OS/ASPA/DCD
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