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Conferences & Speakers: A Hashtag is Now Part of Your Brand

Hashtags may have gained in popularity as trending topics on Twitter, and are used to organize “Tweetchats” on a particular topic, i.e., #hcsm (healthcare communications & social media) and #hcsmeu (healthcare social media Europe) .  However, hashtags are increasingly gaining in significance as a means of branding for conferences, “unconferences” and speakers. A key acronym or phrase is preceded by a hashtag (the pound sign, #) to organize the conference “sound bites” for those following the conference updates on Twitter.

Many conferences and speakers are still not savvy enough to select an identifiable hashtag and make sure it is communicated to the community before, during and after an event. A relevant hashtag is part of your brand for those attending physically as well as those following virtually.  Whether or not you have a consistent and relevant hashtag can make or break the identity of an event and the buzz surrounding it. Make sure it is displayed prominently on your registration/web page!

It is also important for organizers and speakers to market key points in prepared 140-character sound bites. The audience will pick up on a speaker’s key points and retweet throughout the Twitterverse’s virtual community.  If you are a presenter, and you’ve crafted your presentation, spend some time copywriting key points with the 140-character limit in mind to effectively summarize your ideas and enhance your “retweetability.”  Emphasize these well thought-out takeaways during your presentation and watch how they spread virally.

In order to be successfully retweeted, it is important to remember to SUBTRACT from 140:
•  the number of characters in your username plus RT & @,
•  an additional 14 characters for the individual’s username who may be retweeting you, and
•  the number of characters that are in the hashtag.
The remainder is left for the body of your tweet.  The total should equal no more than 140 characters.

Another effect of the conference hashtag is the Twitter “backchannel” which has “empowered those in the audience to compare notes and pool their dissatisfaction during a performance that misfires…raising the bar and increasing the risk for speakers who walk in unprepared. Especially at risk are ‘big name’ speakers whose online or offline status is such that they may complacently assume their presence alone completes the assignment and guarantees success. Organizers may be so delighted to have landed the CEO of the hot company or the thought leader in a particular space that they fail to ask for much in the way of new material or a carefully thought-out ideas. This was always a problem at conferences; what’s different now is the audience is able to do something about it, and they will savage you on Twitter if you falter,”  according to NYU’s Jay Rosen.

Cliff Atkinson of Mashable says “One of the major causes of backchannel disasters is a mismatch between what audiences expect, and what you deliver.”  Another reason you need to solidify your branding.

Now, your conference or presentation is complete, don’t forget to extend your brand by offering a summary of all the tweets referencing your hashtag via http://wthashtag.com known as What The Hashtag.

Those going to Berlin for ExL Pharma’s 2nd Annual Digital Pharma Europe Conference, March 29-30, 2010, please note the hashtag will be #digpharm, and those attending #hcsmeu’s first “unconference” on March 31st also in Berlin, the hashtag will be #hcsmeucamp. Hashtag for Health 2.0 conference in Paris, April 6-7, 2010 is #health2eu. Image by pascalk on flickr

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6 responses to “Conferences & Speakers: A Hashtag is Now Part of Your Brand”

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  2. Thank you for this great recapitulation post !
    I would add that some twitter clients are helpful to follow & transcript a live-tweeted conference :
    – The twitter search http://search.twitter.com/ is the simplest tool. Also have a great language sort, if you want to isolate the tweets in a particular language.
    – Usual Tweetdeck, Seesmic or Hootsuite. They offer to sort all your twitter feeds, lists and hashtags on a unique page. (Nota : if Hootsuite display less character lines, it fits out an updating possibility to assure real-time services).
    – Particular clients are dedicated to hashtag, such as Twitterfall http://twitterfall.com/ . The platform is a great tool to follow a live-tweet. Tweets with Hashtag will litterally “fall” in realtime, and you easily have the possibility to reply, interact with the tweeters, classify the tweets, and mark personal discussions & replies within the hashtag.
    – “What the hashtag” propose a fall of hashtaged tweets either. Even if the options are limited, it proposes to upload a html or pdf transcipt of the discussion, running for the dates you choose.
    – And, of course, twitter tools for mobile phones….

    Which one is your favorite ? I love to use 2 or 3 of them in live-tweets, especially when wifi is slow or when tweets come unregularly – “just in case”. And that’s what i’ll do at #health2eu conference tomorrow.

  3. Excellent reflections and advices, Angela. Some time after I chose my Twitter username I realized about the importance of choosing a short one, for the same reasons that it is important to use short hashtags.

    • Thank you, Miguel! I was going to suggest you could change to Miguel Tovar, but I tried many versions and all are taken. However, @blogaceutics is unique!

  4. Great post. Using a hashtag to promote a conference ahead of time and start conversations about the event are essential. Thanks for clearly showing that hashtags are another marketing tool at our disposal.

    • Thank you, Eileen, appreciate the compliment! Also, find it surprising how many conferences still do not define or promote a hashtag on their conference website and/or make sure their community is on board. Appreciate you spreading the word in our community.
      Cheers! Angela