It is interesting to see how Twitter, one of the earliest ever and most popular social networks, keeps reinventing itself with ways that we would not have thought possible. Earlier in June this year, Twitter announced the introduction of pages for hashtags. A unified methodology from Twitter to pull all the tweets about a topic in the same way that tweets from an account are displayed on a page. I would like to think of myself as an early adapter of technology as it makes its way beyond the 15% threshold that trips the point for a product or a technology to be on the path to reach the masses. So I have used hashtags and understand that people are as diverse as they ought to be and to deny that and to expect to get focused tweets created by a guru in digital marketing is just unnatural.
Why Hashtags ?
For those readers who are yet to grasp hashtags, the concept is simple. Tweets have grown beyond the comprehension of the casual follower, so hash tags were used to further identify the tweet with a topic to add another layer to track the news item topic as well as its author. Originally, Twitter accounts were targeted by followers and websites that used Twitter application services (Open API) to pull dynamic and last minute updates from accounts into readers on mobile devices and web pages. This is still a fact, when we visit someones Twitter’s page, we are presented with a view of that account’s tweets. If all tweets are by automated systems, all Twitter owners will remain true to one subject. In that case, the official Cisco Twitter account, for example, will be focused on topics about the famous technology Company “Cisco”. However, due to social and human factors that control such tools, Twitter accounts drift further off topic that resulted in users creating multiple accounts to stay loyal to their followers and at the same time stay honest to their own diverse nature and widened interest levels. This where hashtags comes in handy, followers and account owners can stay focused on a subject of interest through Hashtags on tweets. As an author, a Twitter account owner, can be free to elaborate on different ideas by adding ‘#topic’ to the tweet. As a follower, one can follow a topic discussed by many authors or one author’s line of thought on multiple topics.
How to implement?
A while ago I was involved in a project to pull tweets into a fan page on Facebook. The open API provided by Twitter simplifies the entire process. However, back then the focus was on the account and less on what is actually being said about the topic across the social network. So with hashtags, a fan page can be an actual representation of all updates and discussions around that particular topic.
But it is not all moonlight and roses, hashtags, like most things, are a two way blade. The use is not limited to the owner of the topic, so for example, a hashtag like ‘#cisco’, can be used by an official Cisco Twitter account or by a Twitter account discussing a law suit involving Cisco. Also casual discussions from anyone with a Twitter account can use the same hashtags to reference topics positively or negatively. In that contexts, businesses need to be aware of when to use the services provided to pull in tweets dynamically into websites and fan pages. So if the site aims to support followers get official updates about a product, pulling the information from the main Twitter account would be more appropriate. Alternatively, a news portal would seek to list all possible discussions by loading tweets using hashtags.
I have been at an event lately in London, and the organizers used hashtags to update everyone on the discussions going about the event from different Twitter accounts across attendees, speakers, and the public media. Another example is how hashtags were used by Roland Garros “French Open” 2012 this year, to identify the players discussed the most and how different fans feel about the games played.
So as always, new advances in technology materialize to add value and enrich experiences. Some of it as with Twitter open API remains free and open to use. It is just how we leverage that and build experiences that target the right audience with the right information using the appropriate set of tools.