Choosing a suitable hashtag is essential for any large event, whether you’re active on social media or not (although you should be!). It takes thought, careful consideration and a dedicated effort to promote the hashtag before, during and after the event.
A good hashtag will group everything together, helping your event to cross-over from the material world into cyberspace, creating a lasting legacy that you can curate in the years to come to show the world just how fantastic it was. And your events *are* fantastic, right?
Here are eight tips on best practice for hashtag usage at events.
Before The Event
1 – Do Your Research
Before choosing a hashtag, be sure to do your research. A good hashtag should be short, to preserve valuable characters, and memorable. You should also check to make sure that your hashtag isn’t already being used – generic terms will be cluttered and difficult to break through, and you want all (or at least 95%) of the tweets that use the hashtag to relate to your event.
Bad: #MicrosoftNewProductLaunch / #Launch
2 – Promote On All Collateral
Once you’ve decided upon your hashtag, start using it in your tweets so that early adopters will see your existing tweets before they use the hashtag. Otherwise, you run the risk of people incorrectly assuming that no-one is using the hashtag and not bothering to include it in their future tweets. You’ll also want to make sure that it’s included on all of the collateral for the event, from e-shots and press releases to direct mail, posters and even the tickets.
If you avoid this crucial step, or carry it out half-heartedly, it will be difficult to gain traction and you might find that your perfect hashtag is left unused while people invent their own tags, scattering the information and making it harder for you to track your hashtag’s success.
During The Event
3 – Monitor the Hashtag
Have a social media team in place on the day to monitor the hashtag, retweeting the best messages and offering support to those with questions. Depending upon how big the event is, and how much is going on, you may need multiple people to take control of the Twitter feed. In these circumstances, agree in advance who will be responding to queries, and separate the live-tweeting duties between the other team members. You should aim to have at least one team member monitoring the hashtag at all times to offer support and encouragement and to foster interactivity.
4 – Use it Everywhere
Make sure you plaster the hashtag everywhere, from speakers’ slides to goodie bags, event programmes and any mobile app that you might be using. Think outside the box and include your hashtag anywhere you can, and ensure that it’s included in any speaker sessions or announcements that are made.
5 – Consider Using a Tweetstream
At some events, you’ll see screens scattered around that display a live-stream of the most recent tweets to include the hashtag. While this can be a risk, as you never know when a negative or offensive tweet might appear, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Including these visual representations of what’s happening online can encourage people to participate in the conversation and engender a sense of community.
Just make sure that somebody, somewhere, is monitoring the hashtag – you might find that people start posting defamatory or unrelated tweets purely to see whether they appear in the Tweetstream. In these circumstances, most tweetstream providers will allow you to blacklist individual users so that their tweets no longer appear. Good providers will also automatically censor profanity.
6 – Offer Unique Rewards to People Who Use The Official Hashtag
To encourage usage of your hashtag, promise additional rewards to people who use it in their social media posts. At regular intervals, choose a random user of the hashtag to win a prize, whether it’s extra swag, a meet and greet opportunity or a free drink. These random acts of kindness will quickly result in a positive buzz around the hashtag, and ultimately they’ll make the event more memorable for the lucky few who are chosen.
After The Event
7 – Use an Aggregator
You can use an aggregation tool like Storify to collect different types of media across the web and to embed it on to your website. Storify can also notify the sources, and best of all, it’s completely free! Using an aggregation tool helps you to expose all of the content that was shared during your event and to present it after the fact in an intriguing mix between a case study and a blog post.
8 – Analyse the Sentiment
Finally, after the dust has died down and the event is over, consider analysing the sentiment of the tweets that accompanied the hashtag to see what people really thought. Although there are expensive tools out there that can assist you to carry out sentiment analysis, from Radian 6 to Sysomos, you can do it on the cheap using tools like SocialMention and advanced Twitter search to get a good idea of whether the tweets surrounding the event were predominantly negative, neutral or positive.
Cybranding’s hashtag intelligence software will also allow you to pinpoint key influencers and contributors, and you can easily compare your own hashtag to that of a competitor. Better yet, you can isolate the negative tweets, find out what the problem was and aim to improve it for next time!
Choosing and deploying a hashtag for an event isn’t as simple as plucking something out of the air, tweeting about it a couple of times, and leaving it to make its mark. Like all social endeavours, it takes careful planning and nurturing to develop, but the results are infinitely more rewarding.
Have you used hashtags for your events? How successful were they? Let us know with a comment!
Dane Cobain is a social media specialist for UK-based creative agency fst the Group. He’s also a gadget-lover and tech fanatic, as well as an internet addict.