Sunday, 27 May 2012

Torch Tweets - Hashtags

For the past week I've been following the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay around the country through the text, pictures and video posted on Twitter by local authorities, the Police and other agencies. This page displays a timeline of live content and you can use it to follow the Relay as it progresses.

Initially I did this to prepare for when the Relay reaches Berkshire, as then the live page will display content from local organisations and residents, or Torch Tweeters as we're calling them; you can read more about this here. It has however given me an invaluable insight into how social media is being used to cover this event.

Over the next few weeks I'll post my observations and my first is on hashtags.

Despite being a national event (international if you include Dublin) I couldn't find any attempt to join everything up on Twitter. Some counties have sensibly used a common hashtag, #GlosTorchRelay for instance was used to tie together all the tweets from the Police, district and county councils in Gloucestershire but there seems to be no one hashtag throughout all the areas the Relay visits.

This might have something to do with the main hashtag used by @London2012 being so long, #London2012TorchRelay takes up a lot of characters so some have shortened it to #TorchRelay or have used #OlympicTorch or #OlympicTorchRelay.

Those who are using other hastags are generally adopting phrases suggested by LOCOG such as #linethestreets and #momenttoshine and the former has been also used by @London2012. These are great for traditional press releases but can create confusion when used as hashtags.

Some councils used one hashtag in one tweet, another in a subsequent tweet and yet another in a following tweet. People often follow an event by searching for one specific hashtag rather than following all the accounts that might be tweeting about it so if you're using #London2012TorchRelay in some, and #linethestreets or #TorchRelay in others it's likely that some of your audience will miss quite a bit of your content.

So what have I learned? If you're creating an event, pick one reasonably short hashtag, stick with it and publicise what it is. If you're narrating someone else's event and they haven't or won't specify one, talk to others covering it and agree a common hashtag.

What are do you think of ths and the Olympic Torch Relay coverage in general on Twitter so far? I'd be interested to know and you can find me at @PhilRumens.
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.