This blog entry discusses milk, and I thought about naming it "Twitter Does a Body Good." But the milk branding campaign is kind of played out, and besides, it's not every day that I encounter the opportunity to put the pound sign (#) in a blog headline.
This Thursday night my cat hadn't seen me in nearly four days, and whenever I'm gone for an extended time, she retreats to a very small world underneath my bed. Yesterday was no different, and sure enough, there she was. Upon hearing her name, she crawled up to me for a few pats, and I asked her, "Would you like some pound milk?"
Has Twitter wormed itself so far into my head that I'm now speaking in tweets—even to my cat? Yes, it has. But that's OK, and you ought to aspire to reach this level of oneness with Twitter, because tweeting is pretty much like thinking and then talking. (All of social media is, actually—but why should I write a book when I can just write a blog entry?) It's just that there's a big quirk: pound signs. And once you've learned to think in pound, tweeting should become second nature to you.
By code, I don't mean computer code. You don't need to know that to know Twitter. Seasoned Twitter users will understand that I'm talking about hashtags. For the uninitiated, a Twitter hashtag is the pound sign on your keyboard. Placing it immediately before any word in a tweet automatically notifies the entire Twitterverse that you're tweeting about something relevant to the hashtag.
Do you want your tweets to be found in the Twitterverse? Then use hashtags. They're highly searchable on Twitter, a social network that, in ways, emulates a vast search engine of what people are talking about.
The Nuts & Bolts of Hashtags
Not all hashtags are recognizable as one word. Often, the hashtag will be several words strung together as one. That's because Twitter automatically makes a link out of any unbroken string of characters immediately preceded by a pound sign. Place no space between the hashtag and the string of unbroken characters immediately following it. Then, once the tweet is tweeted, watch the entire entity become a hyperlink. Afterward, clicking on that hyperlink will show you every tweet that's been tweeted with that hashtag.
Still more hashtags aren't words at all, or at least not per se. For instance, I recently attended the 2011 HR Demo Show, all about human resources technologies. SharedXpertise Media, LLC, the parent organization, was definitely on its game, alerting its tech-savvy attendees to two hashtags associated with the event: #HRDemo and (for concurrent HRO Summits, thrown by SharedXpertise's HRO Today magazine) #HROToday
Hashtags & Hybrid Networking
Why did SharedXpertise announce these hashtags? Well, both provided a way for all tweeting attendees to participate in a parallel, often equally compelling conversation in the Twitterverse. Employment of hashtags helps Twitter exponentially foster networking and the sharing of information at a brick-and-mortar event.
Smart Branding & Piggybacking
Using a hashtag in this way is also an exercise in smart branding, and a physical gathering of likeminded individuals provides fertile ground to plant the beginnings of a new hashtag brand through the cultivation of spontaneous, endorsed partner channels:
At the same event, TalentManagementTech.com (TMT), an online property newly acquired by ShareXpertise, launched and heavily promoted its own hashtag, #TMTech, piggybacking SharedXpertise's other branded, show-related hashtags, as well as other attendees' own branded hashtags (e.g. "#TChat," short for "Talent Chat," the weekly Twitter conversation hosted by Talent Culture) and generic hashtags around which TMT's target audiences congregate and search within Twitter (e.g. #hrtech).
Developing Twitter Clout
Through prolific tweeting at HR Demo, TMT's objective, clearly, was to promote general awareness of itself as an online destination and to attract the attention of its marketplace's leading denizens and thought leaders. By attending several more large HR-related events and employing this hashtag at every turn, with every tweet, TMT will be embracing a solid tactic to expand its sphere of influence on Twitter and thus promote awareness of itself and develop clout—and maybe even "Klout" (see a future blog entry).
Back to My Cat...
To know I was about to pour some for her, did my cat need me to speak the pound sign immediately before milk the other night? No, and in this way, speaking to a cat is different than tweeting to people (or cats). But tweeting is still pretty much like thinking and talking—and, yeah, about being noticed. Once you understand this, watch out: You'll find yourself speaking "#," too.