Friday, October 19, 2012

How-To: #Hashtags and Twitter Chats

I have to say that some days I feel like I'm #getting #hashtagged #to #death. It seems like they are being used for anything as a kind of a side comment or sarcastic jab. This can be funny and clever at times, but the overkill is unfortunate.

And yet every week someone asks me, "What's a hashtag, and what's it used for on Twitter?" Well, I had the same question a few years ago, so let's answer it.

When I sought out the answer, I went right to the source: Twitter. And they have a great explanation:
Definition: The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.
All clear? I wasn't either, so I encourage you to read the rest of that page before going further if you need more clarity. Kelly Clay also gives some good info here and mentions one of the uses I'll be utilizing in a couple of weeks at the annual CSTD Conference:
Using a hashtag is useful for conferences and events to keep all mentions on Twitter about the conference or event searchable and accessible in a stream for those using third-party apps. 
Basically, hashtags help you keep track of conversations centred around certain topics and events. The #FirstWorldProblems being a good example. A hashtag can also help you do research or find like-minded individuals when you combine it with a search on Twitter.

One recent example of how a hashtag on Twitter benefited me was the day of the inaugural 'First Thursdays' event at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). I neglected to buy my ticket in advance and it was sold out with a rush line that evening. I wanted to go, but I didn't want to head down there just to stand in line for over an hour and then not get in to the party. So, I headed to Twitter, searched for #AGO1st and was able to follow the discussion thread, connect with others attending or waiting in line and eventually decide whether to make the trip down there or not. I did go, got in quickly, and loved the event!

My favourite use of a hashtag is for Twitter chats, which are explained here by Janet Fouts. I have had wonderful discussion via Twitter chats, networked and met great people and learned a lot from them. Using makes it easy, fun and rewarding.

I like Twitter chats so much, in fact, that I'm hosting my own! Please join me and learn with me at #learnwme to discover more about Adult Learning and Development and Social Media! They will be held Mondays from 8 - 9pm EST with the first one happening this Monday, October 22, 2012!

I will begin the #learnwme chats with one that helps those of you who may be Twitter novices. So, this first chat on October 22 will focus on three things to help you learn and practice:

  1. How to participate in a Twitter chat. (I'll be instructing and answering questions as we go along while you practice simultaneously.) 
  2. Why Twitter is a valuable tool worthy of your engagement. 
  3. What some of the most popular Twitter acronyms are and how to use them. 
Please join me and let's have some fun learning together on Twitter! Any questions or comments? Please add them below. 

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