:: This is an exerpt from the book I wrote with Randal C. Moss The Future of Nonprofits ::
Is this a 2010 event? Or a 2015 event? Tell us in the comments below.
The hashtag, as defined by Twitter, was created because Twitter provided no easy way to group tweets or add extra data. Since Twitter did not develop this capability into its system, the community came up with their own way: hashtags. A hashtag is similar to other web tags: it is metadata that helps add tweets to a category. Hashtags have the ‘hash’ or ‘pound’ symbol (#) preceding the tag.: #traffic, #followfriday, #hashtag.
Just as you might tag a Web bookmark in a social bookmarking site such as the now defunct Xmarks.com and Del.icio.us or on your favorite Blog platform, in the future, the hashtag will be ubiquitous across all social platforms. You will be able to tag everything from Facebook updates to the txt messages you send your friends. The hashtag could become the universal way to add metadata to a piece of online content.
Two important things will rise out this.
A) What’s public vs private.
By using a hashtag on your information, you are able to search for that information across multiple public data streams and see what people are talking about. This will be amazing for when you want to learn about, say, the 2018 World Cup (#worldcup). If everyone uses the same hastag, all of the data gets grouped together and it makes it easier to follow the whole global conversation, even parts of the conversation you are not actively participating in.
This method of hastags puts a lot of control into users’ hands because if there is a post they want to make about a topic, but do not want it included in the global conversation, they can simply decide not to include a hashtag to avoid the search stream.
B) Everything could be trackable.
Imagine the ROI you could present back to a sponsor or major donor about how many times people talked about the event online and across streams. That is a major win for nonprofits seeking funding and sponsorships to do their mission. Imagine if you could see and understand the concerns of your constituents as they express them. Monitoring can deliver real time intelligence to ytou about honest conversations taking place unmediated all over the web. What you decide to do with that information is up to you.
Social Media has an added benefit of being extremely track-able and monitor-able if you plan ahead. This can be as simple as using a hashtag when you tweet. When we attended the Texas Nonprofit Summit in 2010, the hashtag was #TXNS. They announced it on stage and on twitter and even in the program. The crowd added the hashtag to all our tweets.
Then, using the service The Archivist (which is free), the conference organizers were able to send out a graph like this to all their fans, users, influencers as well as their board and sponsors:
At TEDx Cincinnati, the hashtag for the event was #TEDxcincy. Since we organized the social media for the event, we took the concept one step further, creating a unique hashtag for each presenter, published in the conference program. We encouraged all of the audience members and participants to use the hastags to help curate the conversations. The added benefit was that during the conference, participants could conduct silent conversations about the presentations in real time. The hashtags kept the conversations separate. In addition, after the event was over, anyone could use the hashtag to research the conversation days, weeks, even months later.
This is an excerpt from The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age, coming from Wiley in 2011.