Everybody knows about hashtags. We've seen the Justin Timberlake YouTube video. We've seen the Subway knock-off commercial. But all kidding aside, the smart use of a hashtag can give your event a new life that lasts far after the event is over. Here are a seven tips on how to get the most mileage out of your event hashtag.
1. Keep in mind you want the hashtag to outlive your event. You can continue the conversation about the event's topics by tagging related subject tweets with a hashtag.It might not be the best idea to use a year (13 or 2013) in the hashtag. Not only will you have to change it next year, but people who didn't attend the event might see that as exclusionary and meant only for people who attended.
2. Choose a hashtag that is less than eight characters. If we want people to leave 20 characters for retweets or adding to the conversation, a long hashtag can be a burden to content. Also, make sure the hashtag is logical-it should relate to the title or subject matter of the event.
3. Publish the hashtag on all promotional materials. Use the hashtag liberally leading up to the event to get the buzz going. Ask presenters and sponsors to tag their tweets as well.
4. Encourage people to tweet at the event. And keep everyone on the same page. I was at a conference recently where a breakout session presenter wanted people to use a hashtag different from the event hashtag-one that applied specifically to their presentation. The only people that would know about that hashtag would be the people in the session. Make sure you encourage people to use the event hashtag so all atendees and those following on the home front can follow the dialogue.
5. Publish a running Twitter feed on monitors throughout the event venue. You can use Hootsuite's tool (HootFeed) or a number of other tools available. If you have several streams going at one event, you may want to set up a Hootsuite or TweetDeck tab with all the feeds in columns and run that feed on monitors. Put the monitors in prominent hall and lobby locations.
6. Promote your archived conversation. Promote your hashtag as a feed people can follow after the event to keep involved in the conversation. Show event participants how to access a hashtag feed in case they don't know how to (just click on the hashtag-it's a live link to the whole conversation).
7. Use the feed to produce other content throughout the year. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has a social media conference every year that is popular in higher education circles. They do an excellent job of promoting the conference with a tweet chat using the hashtag (#casesmc) every other week during the regular year. You may also want to consider an ongoing blog on Tumblr that posts articles on related subjects or posts from presenters. A paper.li or similar storyboard application can also archive all the tweets and links that are tagged with the hashtag.
If you're considering an event hashtag, make sure you think beyond the event and consider the lifespan of your hashtag. Make a plan to keep the conversation going long after the event is over.