Monday, 21 January 2013

Could standard hashtags work?

Back in May 2012 I wrote about public sector organisations using common hashtags on Twitter for the London 2012 Torch Relay. Since then I've been talking with a few people about how Local Government could use common hashtags to represent its most used services.

I'm thinking for example, #bin to represent anything to do with Waste Services, #road for anything to do with Highways and so on. Tweets might look like

@AnyCouncil my #bin hasn't been collected

@AnyCouncil when do the roadworks on Station Road finish? #road

Before I go any further I should say I'm not proposing that these tags should be mandatory before customers get a reply. We're trying to make things easier for them, not add red tape.

So what could be achieved if customers used tags like this in their tweets? One application is an auto-response which also forwarded the enquiry to the people who are most likely to have the answer.

When I tweeted about this Marc Schmid quite rightly pointed out that "Personal response makes a big difference" and he's quite right. I'm not talking about replacing a human reply, I'm talking about complimenting it.

To see how this might work tweet anything with #bin at this test account. You'll get a response with a link to more information. What happens in the background is that the tweet has been forwarded to Waste Services for a response, or would have been if it wasn't a test. You can also try this using #road.

This means that the customer gets a rely quicker, because it's removed the need for Comms, Cutomer Services or whoever manages the account to do this.

At present the back office need to send the reply to those who manage the Twitter account, but it would be quite easy to build the functionality for the back office to reply to the tweet. This opens up the potential for hundreds of people to be able to reply to tweets on one account without an expensive social media command centre or management software.

Of course this wouldn't stop Services having their own accounts too, but just as the majority of people phone the main Customer Services number, a majority of users follow and tweet at a main council account.

There are many other things you could achieve with standard hashtags and if you'd like to discuss this then you can find me at
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.