Next Wednesday, at 11 am EST, I’m going to participate in a webinar together with BuzzSumo about using hashtags for content marketing.
If you’re interested, feel free to register here. See you!
Next Wednesday, at 11 am EST, I’m going to participate in a webinar together with BuzzSumo about using hashtags for content marketing.
If you’re interested, feel free to register here. See you!
Last time we spoke about hashtags as labeled sections on a bulletin board. This is a good analogy when you think about disseminating messages that you want to draw attention to. But the bulletin board analogy doesn’t reflect the “social” aspect of social networks.
As a matter of fact, hashtags aren’t just a fundamental tool to broadcast information to the right audience; they’re also a great tool to find and meet people who share your interests – both personal and professional ones. Among these people you can find those that can help you extend your influence through their own larger audiences, therefore further amplifying and endorsing your message.
To visualize this point of view, a much more fitting analogy are the rooms of a club.
It’s no coincidence that the inspiration for adding hashtags to Twitter came from chatrooms. When Twitter was small and users were few, having genuine conversations was much more prevalent than it is today. Chris Messina, the inventor of the hashtag, suggested to adopt this convention exactly to create “rooms” where you could discuss specific subjects even with people you didn’t know yet.
This helped creating many interest-based communities. Hashtags allowed you to discover like-minded people and then connect with them. People who had something interesting to share could easily build a following and meaningful relationships. With the gargantuan size of today’s Twitter – and that of the other major social networks – this is a much rarer event, but not all is lost!
The biggest rooms – the most popular hashtags – don’t look like rooms at all. They rather resemble big and noisy squares with hordes of people incessantly coming and going, and all of them wanting attention!
In these rooms/squares there is usually very little sense of community, if at all, and, if you asked who are the leaders/influencers, you would mostly come out with some out-of-reach celebrities that from time to time come to grace the onlookers with their hyper-amplified messages and maybe get a buzz going for a few hours.
For most marketers and communicators, finding meaningful connections in these places is really a hit-and-miss game – with much more misses than hits. Try your chance if you want, but our suggestion is to focus on much better playing fields.
Most viral hashtags, hashtags about current world events, and very general interest subjects generate Public Square “rooms”.
Some subjects, like for example data visualization techniques or embroidery, have an inherently smaller audience. But also the subjects with the broadest appeal, like music or news, have more specialized sub-subjects of various niche levels; think classical music or Vatican City local news.
It is at this smaller – and especially niche – level that healthy online communities can still form around one or more specific hashtags, forming their own specialty rooms.
These thriving communities have their own unwritten rules, and, most often, some widely recognized reference points – their top influencers. Here you can also build your own significant, or at least useful, relationships.
This will usually require a healthy investment in time, resource and budget too, but if you find the right hashtags and communities, it will give you the highest long-term return. We’ll go into more details in future lessons, but the general process can be summarized in these steps:
Until now, we focused mostly on industry/interest hashtags, which usually come from the bottom up in a completely organic way. A different case is the campaign hashtag, purposefully created and steered by some organization or business. This brings us to the branded room.
The biggest difference between these rooms and the former ones is that here we have somebody who worked hard to invite people to their room and keep them engaged. And somebody who, if successful, is officially recognized by most members as the leader of the community. Somebody who also had a specific goal in mind for this community.
The situation that interests us now is when you’re not the one who built the room. So, is it possible to create meaningful relationships here? The short answer is: Yes, if the room still resembles the specialty room we talked about before, with a thriving community, and if your goals aren’t in direct conflict with the creators’ ones. The same process can still apply.
But what if your goals are conflicting with the creators’? Well, depending on the situation, you could either find other rooms… or you could try to hijack it. But that is another story and shall be told another time.
And before we finish, we’ll quickly mention two special cases of branded hashtags/rooms: the event hashtag, and the Twitter chat. For different reasons, these two cases are very relevant, and we’ll talk about these in the lesson about the hashtags lifecycles.
Congratulations! You have finished the introductory part of our Advanced Marketing course. We’re still writing the next lessons, which will be more practical how-tos about various common tasks for social media marketers.
But you don’t need to wait if you want to apply the concepts we explained. You can start from our Labs, which include guided tours and detailed guides to, among other things:
At least for now, on Twitter and the other major social platforms that support hashtags, anybody can use any hashtag they want, any way they want. You can even invent a hashtag on the spot, just by adding the hash/pound (#) symbol in front of any word, combination of words, or random sequence of characters and numbers – as long as the sequence doesn’t contain spaces or punctuation.
One important thing to know is that, when you search for a hashtag on Twitter, the search engine ignores character capitalization – #WORD is the same as #word. But for your readers, capitalization is very important: when you use hashtags made from more words, be sure to capitalise the first letter of each word. This will make the hashtag much easier to read, and will avoid possible misinterpretation.
When in 2007 Chris Messina first proposed to use hashtags on Twitter to show that a tweet belonged to a specific grouping, this started as a completely grassroots convention. Even if Twitter didn’t give any special status to hashtags until two years later, they still worked well for this goal, because only one thing was required: if you search for posts containing #Word, the search should only show you posts with #Word, and not those with “Word” without the hash.
This still remains the core of the hashtag: a convention to show that your post is specifically about #Something, instead of one where you just mentioned the word “something” in passing. And an easy way for anybody to find all the posts about #Something.
When their use was already wide among early adopters, Twitter started adding some specific features to make it easier to use hashtags. First, it automatically highlighted all hashtags, and made them clickable to easily search all the tweets for that hashtag. Then, it started prominently showing a list of the top trending hashtags.
These two simple additions made hashtags evident for everybody, not only those in the know, and Twitter immediately became a much more useful platform for discovering interesting trends and topics. A few years later, all the other major social platforms added the same, or similar, features.
Let’s sum it up: any combination of characters or numbers, without spaces or punctuation, that begins with the hash symbol, is a hashtag. You are free to use any hashtags you want in your posts, and, when you do so, that hashtag will become highlighted and clickable for the reader to easily find all the other tweets using that hashtag. Last, when people search for that hashtag, they could find your post. So, should you use any possible hashtag in your posts?
As you might have already guessed (or read elsewhere), the answer is no. Why not? Because using random hashtags is considered spam, and has many more downsides than upsides.
First of all, if people search for #This, and find your tweet that talks about #That, but where you also hashtagged the word #This just to increase your findability, at best they will ignore you. At worst, they will mark you as a spammer, and if enough people do this your content will become penalised by Twitter and most other platforms.
Second, even your followers and other people who are actually interested in #That, and who could like your content, aren’t going to appreciate you using irrelevant hashtags – and even using too many relevant hashtags will irritate many people, who could stop following you just for this reason.
According to most research, the optimal number of relevant hashtags for a post with interesting content on Twitter is 2 or 3 (on Instagram you can actually use more). But how do you define “relevant”?
How to actually choose the right hashtags will be the subject of entire future lessons. But the basic principle can be summed up in just three words: meet people’s expectations.
If a user searches for the hashtag #PhotoOfTheDay, what does she expect to find? In this case it’s pretty obvious: an interesting picture. So, if you’re posting a beautiful picture of your backyard taken today, this hashtag is highly relevant. This isn’t enough to say that you should use this hashtag to get the best results, but it’s enough to say that you can use it and not get any backlash.
Many people think that a hashtag like #PhotoOfTheDay would also be great for a post sharing an article about cameras. After all, many people interested in photos are also interested in cameras… but when somebody searches for #PhotoOfTheDay, his expectation is definitely not to find articles about cameras.
That user could find your article interesting if he found it at the right time, but if you do not meet his expectations when he executes his search, you’re much more likely to get no reaction at all, or even a negative reaction. And always remember that your followers will judge your hashtags and your respect for readers. So, don’t fall into temptation, and when in doubt always try to think what would your expectation be if you searched for a given hashtag.
Congratulations! You have finished our Hashtags 101 course. The next lesson will be published next week for the Advanced Hashtags course, where we’re going to start delving deeper into the secrets of hashtag marketing.
Hashtags today are everywhere, from Twitter posts to billboard ads and TV commercials, but you shouldn’t use them just because everybody else does. To get great results, you need to understand hashtags, and how to use hashtags strategically.
The first step in creating any strategy is to know your goals, and that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about in this first installment of our Hashtags 101 course: the main goals that hashtags can help you achieve. We’ll talk about what hashtags are in the next lesson.
The first and most obvious reason to use hashtags is to reach beyond your usual followers and gain penetration into broader digital communities. We’ll go into deeper details about how and why this works in the future, but for now we’ll focus on the kind of results you can expect to get if you start using hashtags well.
There have been many quantitative studies conducted by Twitter and others on this. They have all found that using hashtags in a tweet boosts the chances of it being retweeted, favorited, clicked on, or answered; the increase is consistently measured between +50% and +100%.
These numbers are an average for all tweets with hashtags – including the tweets with bad hashtags. So, with a good strategy, you can expect even better results. And the effect isn’t limited to Twitter: using hashtags brings higher reshares on Instagram and Google Plus too.
The exception is Facebook: studies have shown that hashtags there have a detrimental effect on posts interaction . But if you want your content to reach more eyeballs on Twitter, Instagram or Google Plus, you need to invest some time in hashtags.
High-quality followers – those who engage with you and are therefore genuinely interested in what you share, and will also help you spread it even more – are hard to gain. You need to consistently publish interesting content, engage with other people, and add value to the community; hashtags help you do this by acting as a multiplier of your work.
This is a direct consequence of increasing your reach. Sharing great content isn’t enough, people need to see it before they can even think about sharing it or starting to follow you. Moreover, hashtags can also be used to learn what your followers are interested in.
Hashtags can also be used to find and learn about influencers and your target audiences.
Connecting with already known influencers in your field is one of the fastest ways to increase your own influence. Using hashtags and the right tools, it’s easy enough to find not only who those influencers are, but also what they’re interested in, and specifically what you have in common. This can really help your engagements with them become much more meaningful and impactful.
Depending on your field of market, the same techniques could also be useful to find and connect with potential customers.
At the beginning of this lesson we cited the usage of hashtags on billboards and TV ads. This is the most visible use of hashtags, but it is actually a pretty specialised and limited one for most brands, as it depends on having lots of resources.
Indeed, creating and promoting your own hashtag is something that only makes sense in a few but important cases – when you have a campaign with a big budget, or when you can already rely on a high visibility or big fan base for your campaign.
In those cases, a custom hashtag can greatly multiply the power of your communication, especially if you can reach the nirvana of hashtag marketing – going viral. We’ll talk about these cases in the advanced course.
This was just an introduction to the world of hashtag marketing; there are also other goals that hashtags can help you reach, but those listed here are, in our experience, the most important and most common ones.
If you would like to achieve at least one of these goals, you have a very good reason to learn how to use hashtags at their best.
When you’re using a hashtag for a marketing campaign, you need to keep track of its health status. Some of the fundamental questions are:
We created the CyBranding Hashtag Intelligence Summary panel to answer all these questions at a glance, without having to manually sift through all the tweets. This new detailed video walkthrough will show you how.
Would you like to test these features with your hashtags? You’re lucky, because we have a 14 days free trial for all our plans! Check our plans and pricing and Start your free trial now!
The shortest path to becoming an influencer for an existing hashtag is to connect with its current influencers. And the shortest path to getting a new hashtag off the ground is to connect with relevant influencers who would be interested in promoting it.
Given these premises, it’s hardly a surprise that the most used area of our Hashtag Intelligence tool is the Influencers panel. And that’s also the reason why we packed lots of features into this panel.
To make it easier to understand how you can use this panel to find the most interesting influencers for your hashtags, and to connect with them, we created a new detailed video walkthrough. Enjoy!
This post by Randy Olson is an entry to our $4,000 Blogging Contest. Randy is a third-year Computer Science & Engineering Ph.D. student at Michigan State University working in Dr. Chris Adami’s research lab.
According to an August 2013 PEW report, 18% of all internet users use Twitter on a regular basis. That equates to roughly 500 million people signing into Twitter to check the latest tweets, news, and celebrity gossip every day. It’s no surprise that brand marketers have taken an interest in connecting to even a small fraction of those 500 million users with the hope of increasing sales and their brand’s reputation.
However, like most online social networks, Twitter has proven to be an amorphous entity that even the best social network analysts struggle to understand. How can we make sense of the massive amount of information on Twitter? More importantly, how can we learn from this information to better market our brands on Twitter?
In this guide, we’re going to walk through how we can use Hashtagify.me and some basic social network analysis techniques to identify the key hashtags in a network, and properly use the hashtags in our tweets to maximize our brand’s reach on Twitter.
Some brand marketers may be wondering why hashtags are even worthwhile. Hashtags use up our limited tweet characters and make the tweet awkward to read. Why not focus on writing a clear yet concise tweet that explains the product and why it’s worth considering?
First and foremost, hashtags are the primary method on Twitter to connect to people we don’t know: if we don’t use hashtags, the only users that see our tweets are the ones that follow us. Any brand marketer who’s used Twitter before can testify how difficult it is to build a loyal following there.
The data about tweet engagement is even more eye opening. Here’s a rundown of the relevant points:
This means that if we want to maximize engagement with our tweets, we need to tweet fewer than 7 times a day, be short yet to-the-point, and include 1-2 relevant and popular hashtags in our tweet. That’s an awful lot to consider for a 100-character message, isn’t it? Fortunately, Hashtagify.me can help us making that whole process a breeze.
In my previous post, I covered how to identify networks of related hashtags on Twitter by taking a look at the Big Ten college football network. Let’s move on to identifying the key hashtags in that network.
The most popular hashtags in a network aren’t necessarily the best hashtags to use for that network. From the analysis in the previous post, we saw that #Michigan was the most used hashtag. If we used #Michigan, we’d be reaching a large number of people, but we would be missing people that follow other sports teams, and instead we would reach many others who are interested in things Michigan, but not in sports. Instead, we want to identify the hashtags that are both popular and used frequently with several other popular hashtags in the network. In social network analysis terms, we want to find the hashtags that are most central to the network.
Fortunately, several smart people have already worked out this problem for us. They found two mathematical tools, called eigenvector centrality and betweenness centrality measures, that help us find the most central nodes in a network; they are both described nicely in this article on network centrality measures.
In this case study, we want to find the hashtags that have a large influence on the entire Big Ten network and tend to spread information to all of the other school’s sports teams. Just our luck, the open source software Gephi has built-in tools to calculate both of these centrality measures, so all we have to do is click a couple buttons to compute them – after importing the data there, of course. If you’re not familiar with Gephi, there are some great guides explaining how to import data into Gephi, how to use Gephi’s data laboratory, and how to calculate network statistics in the data laboratory.
After doing that, this is the final result we got for our Big Ten football hashtags:
Big Ten football Twitter hashtags eigenvector centrality
Big Ten football Twitter hashtags betweenness centrality
As expected from the network visualization we made earlier, #B1G is the most influential hashtag in the Big Ten network. #BigTen and #Buckeyes also seem to be reasonable choices to use for hashtags, but we only have room for one other hashtag if we want to keep the number of hashtags to the ideal of 2. So #B1G and #BigTen it is!
Fun fact: It’s especially interesting to note here that some of the most popular hashtags in the Big Ten network, such as #Michigan, #Huskers, and #Badgers, have about the same influence in the network as the least popular hashtag, #B1GFootball. This just goes to show how in online social networks, size isn’t everything!
If we now go back to Hashtagify.me and compare the Big Ten network’s most influential hashtag’s popularity over time, we make another great finding: #B1G is the only hashtag that hasn’t been tanking in popularity since the end of the primary college football season. Now we know for sure that #B1G is the best hashtag to include in our tweets if we want to get the most attention from the Big Ten network on Twitter.
#B1G popularity over time
Now that we’ve decided that #B1G is the best hashtag to use for our marketing purposes, we need to learn how to use the hashtag: Each online network has their own social norms and inside jokes. If we barge in with a tweet blatantly advertising our brand, we’re more likely to anger the network than make them want to consider our products. That’s where another handy Hashtagify.me tool comes in: hashtag top influencers.
#B1G top influencers
#B1G hashtag usage patterns
We see some fairly clear trends here: #B1G is used the most on Saturdays and Sundays in the mornings before 10am EST and in the evenings after 6pm EST. Although we could employ a strategy of trying to stand out by tweeting when fewer people are tweeting on the hashtag (between 11am and 5pm EST), most likely the people who follow #B1G will only check Twitter for it during the hours that it’s normally used. As such, we should tweet when #B1G is used the most to connect with more users.
Stop missing out on potential customers by sending out tweets with the wrong hashtags at the wrong times. Start using Hashtagify.me today so you can maximize your brand’s reach on Twitter. And don’t forget to share this post!
This post by Katie Williams is an entry to our $4,000 Blogging Contest. Katie serves as the International Marketing Manager of eFaqt, an education-tech startup in Amsterdam. She uses Hashtagify to analyze trending hashtags, and evaluate the success of various marketing campaigns.
In today’s hyper-connected world it’s not enough to be well-connected in “real life”; if you seek to truly stand out in your field, you must also carefully curate your online presence. In this post, I’ll show you a real world example of how you can mine hashtag data to tailor your tweets with the right hashtags, mention the right people, and set yourself up to become an influencer in your field.
In the past, professionals from various sectors would convene at in-person conventions only a few times a year to discuss the latest findings and trends in public; now, those conversations are often open on Twitter 24/7. Hashtags are the glue that holds these conversations together, and keeps them going on a specific topic. You can use hashtags to both analyze what’s going on and to jump into the debate in real-time.
I work for a startup in the education space. In this example, I’ll show you how I used hashtagify.me to identify the right hashtags and the top influencers on Twitter, to engage with those influencers, and even to interview them. Keep in mind that you can follow these steps for any field, or specialization.
Step 1: Define your niche: #education is too broad
It is vital to define your niche. Education is a very broad topic, and I found out that the most obvious hashtags, #edu and #education, are too generic for my goal of becoming a Twitter influencer.
One great way to find out how your niche is divided on Twitter is to do a basic hashtag search using Hashtagify’s free service. As you can see in the image below, #edu (education) has a lot of areas, but many of the smaller niches aren’t going to show up in the top 10 related hashtags. Luckily, using CyBranding Hashtag Intelligence, the premium counterpart to hashtagify.me, I was able to dive deeper and find #edtech, which is nicely tailored to my interests.
So, be sure to hone in on your exact specialty so you can become a top influencer in the field that best defines your passions.
Step 2: Determine influencers in your field
When I first started teaching, it was rare to find fellow educators on Twitter. However, in the past few years, educators have flocked to Twitter in record numbers to share best practices and top news. Again using Hashtag Intelligence, I’ve tracked nearly a million tweets for #edtech in the past 70 days alone. Now, I want to find which influencers are the most active on Twitter.
Finding the top influencers is easy: Simply click on the “influencers” tab for your hashtag, and get ready to pull some amazing data. On Hashtagify you’ll find the top 6, while with Hashtag Intelligence I was able to get the top 50.
Step 3: Find individual influencers
After doing a bit more research, I see that the top three influencers for #edtech are all organizations. Don’t forget to follow top organizations, too, because they share high-quality content that you can re-share to your followers. However, there are a few non-organization accounts in the top 10, and they are even more interesting for me since I want to connect with individuals who are passionate about #edtech.
So I reached out to @shellterrell, a super educator, with a super Twitter presence. She’s the number one individual influencer for #edtech, according to the last 70 days’ data. I learned that Shelly has trained teachers in over 20 countries, and even founded the Twitter chat #edchat. I asked Shelly about her top tip for those new to Twitter. She said it’s all about the hashtags. Shelly mentioned that she finds stuff she loves online, and then shares via Twitter by using the appropriate hashtags.
— Katie Williams (@fiberopticnow) January 15, 2014
Shelly contributes on Twitter everyday using these hashtags when sharing different content gems she’s found. By the way, Shelly has over 46,000 followers on Twitter, so definitely heed her words of advice! Listen to her own words in the video that she shared on Twitter via Instagram below:
Find More Relevant Hashtags for your Field
Shelly was kind enough to mention some other amazing educational Twitterers whom I could contact. Because Shelly founded #edchat, another top hashtag for education, I decided to dig deeper into this hashtag, too. #Edchat is a Twitter chat for educators, and those interested in chatting about education-related topics. Unlike many other Twitter chats, #edchat does not have a specific meeting time, but rather asks educators to engage with others frequently, yet meaningfully in this professional learning network.
I was able to find #edchat influencers using Cybranding Hashtag Intelligence. According to Hashtagify’s data from the past 70 days, the top influential individual for #edchat is @tomwhitby. The second most influential individual for #edchat, whom Shelly also recommended to me to, is @cybraryman1, who has over 38,000 dedicated followers on Twitter.
Jerry Blumengarten, aka @cybraryman1, is an educator, speaker, writer, and moderator of #edchat. Jerry says if you want to engage more on Twitter, it’s imperative that you find hashtags for various subdivisions of your sector. For education, he mentions following hashtags for one’s specific subject area, grade level, and/or state.
This is also easy to do for other fields. Simply narrow down your topic into sub-fields. For example, perhaps #arted (art education) suits you better than #education as an art teacher, or #elemchat (elementary chat) makes more sense for you than #highered (higher education). As you can see, it’s important to find the specialized hashtags that will work best for you. Check out Jerry’s awesome Twitter tips he shared via Instagram below:
Nicholas Provenzano, @thenerdyteacher, another top #edchat influencer, and friend of both @ShellTerell and @cybraryman1 was named the ISTE Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2013. Nicholas chimed in on our discussion to advocate for authenticity on Twitter. The Nerdy Teacher has over 33,000 followers on Twitter, and makes a very authentic case for authenticity in his Vine below:
Step 4: Build connections, drive engagement
Now that you’ve found the most interesting hashtags and influencers, it’s time to be persistent and consistent in your engagement on Twitter. According to Ekaterina Walter, a social media strategist at Intel, there are a few ways to effectively engage on Twitter.
● Tweet consistently
● Connect people
● Promote others
— Katie Williams (@fiberopticnow) January 17, 2014
This post by Duncan Rice is an entry to our $4,000 Blogging Contest. Duncan is a Digital Marketing Executive from Crawley in the UK. When not helping clients with their social media questions at work, he spends his free time doing social media for a local cat re-homing charity.
Connecting with influencers, peers (or even your competition) is an important part of any marketing plan. Social media allows us to do this like never before. Conferences and events give you the perfect platform to combine all your network efforts.
Organizers use the collaborative nature of the hashtag to help their attendees connect, find new people or companies, join a conversation or maybe just help to promote the event to their followers. Here is a rough guide to using hashtags at events, and a few good reasons to make use of those that are on offer.
The Content Marketing Show came to London for the second time on the 8th November and, like most events, came with a ‘ready to use’ hashtag to promote the event #contentmarketingshow. One of the first things the event organizers did was to tell us the hashtag that they had chosen, and how it was a little long!
Wouldn’t it have been easier to choose #cms maybe? It would have, but then what does that mean to those who aren’t actually there – content marketing show or content management system or can mike sing? The choice of a long-tail tag ensures that the message is clear and concise, we all know exactly what it means without having to look it up.
If the choice of hashtag didn’t tell you what you needed to know, and in this example it pretty much does, how could you find out what was going on?
One of the easiest ways to do this is to find out what other topics people were tweeting about in relation to the main event.
The image below shows how one of the ‘in-event’ tags was used in relation to the main one. The tag #royalcontent was used in a presentation about that old adage “Content is King” and the presentation by the developers of the combined gov.uk website also clearly had attendees paying attention.
Using the related hashtag tool on Hashtagify shows that two of the other tags most related to the Content Marketing Show were content and seo. No big surprise to many when you realize that the future of SEO is mastering the content you produce!
Take a look at the tweet below for that answer
A retweeted, retweet of a retweet about one of the presentations which was released in slide form after the event… complete with hashtag just so you know exactly what it’s all about.
If you happened to miss the line-up for the event or weren’t sure who might have something important to say, the influencer report on hashtagify.me will give you a good idea.
Now, I was at the show, and yet the top influencer report even surprised me.
Having the Press Association related to your hashtag is a very important thing to know. Even if you missed the fact at the time, the knowledge that someone like this is paying attention to your event could be an invaluable asset.
I’d take a look at the examples above again. Tweeting links to presentation slides and finding the influential accounts who took notice of your event are a good reason to continue using the tag to summarize and inform those who weren’t there or those who are looking for a little bit more information because they were too busy eating the free pick-n-mix sweets!
The popularity tool gives you a good example of how the #contentmarketingshow hashtag was used in the run up to the event too. That little bump 4 weeks before the event ties in nicely with the release of tickets, while a nice steady build up in the run up to the day shows that some of the pre-event workshops and peoples excitement at their upcoming day in the big city, saw the tag used more and more as the day approached.
I knew you’d ask that, and the answer is probably yes.
The fact that you’re sitting in the same room with a bunch of strangers you’ve never met can be unsettling for some. It’s a strange feeling having a conversation online with a stranger in the same room too! But the fact that you’re all there because you have something in common, means that finding new connections is a lot easier when you’re sharing a hashtag – handing out business cards in the hallway just doesn’t cut it anymore.
You’ll be able to find new people to follow, some might even follow you. You’ll be able to keep track of that cool tool that someone talked about, learn about the company that provided that really good service you needed, follow that person who had all those good ideas or maybe even get a new job – oh, there were some savvy HR people using that tag to put a few job adverts in front of the right audience too!
I’d have to say that the evidence points to it being a positive use of your time.
As an event organizer the promotional benefits are obvious, get people talking about your show in a way that you can easily monitor and engage with. Give them the chance to access the information they missed… or the free sweets (I may have already mentioned them).
If you’re an attendee at an event you should certainly follow the related hashtag even if you don’t actively take part. There might be a lot more going on than just what you’re watching on the stage in front of you – even more so for multi venue / room conferences.