Event season is upon us. If you’re going to one or hosting one this summer, you need an event hashtag. The multi-use piece of text can be a way to promote, create a live buzz, and enable people who can’t attend be there virtually.
Why a Hashtag?
Whether on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, hashtags ignite live and remote discussions. Let’s start with the two types of hashtags floating around out there:
- Search and discuss hashtags: These hashtags construct what are called “back channels” or behind-the-scenes discussions. They are the type you want to create for your event. If promoted correctly, hashtag conversations go a long way to keeping people engaged with your event before, during, and after. More on the characteristics of good ones later.
- Expression hashtags: These are those pithy tags people insert into social media posts that are personal expressions in a nutshell. A good example: my friend’s husband recently developed a kidney stone while on a business trip and needed a quick trip to the emergency room. She was bemoaning the fact that she didn’t get on a plane and go see him in a Facebook post, and added: #shouldaboughtaplaneticket. She wasn’t using the hashtag so people would search the conversation and join in. She was using it to express her anxiety about not jumping on a plane. Expression hashtags are poor event hashtags. They are personal expressions and not a rallying point for the masses.
How to Craft a Winning Hashtag
The best event hashtags have these characteristics:
- Shorter than 15 characters. This isn’t always possible but keep in mind that people wanting to join the conversation need to use it in their 140-character tweets. Even though you don’t have that constraint on Facebook and Instagram, you want to keep Twitter’s limitation in mind.
- Related to event name. If you are creating buzz before and after an event, it is a promotion plus to have a name that will automatically identify with the event and is easily searched. A good example: #20BooksVegas for a conference by the same name.
- Use a unique tag. Before you decide on a hashtag be sure and search the hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to see if it is being used. If there is some chance there will be confusion about whose hashtag it is, go another direction. Use something unique.
How to Make Sure Your Hashtag Catches On
- Use the hashtag in your promotional material: emails, landing page, etc. and encourages others to do the same.
- If you have a conference logo be sure and incorporate the hashtag in the logo and on any advertising or cover photos.
- Set up TV monitors in highly visible areas to host a live hashtag feed. If you are renting a facility and have a tech contract (for presentation hardware) make sure you ask the provider if you can include a big screen TV or two (depending on the size of your facility). Most hotels and meeting facilities have TV monitors. Set them up in a common area with a laptop and run the twitter feed on the monitors. You will be amazed at how much this promotes chatter around what is happening at the conference. Designate someone to “moderate the feed” for junk and spam. There are a number of free apps that will help you set up a customized “Twitter wall” for displaying on a monitor. Some apps also include Facebook so you can show both the Facebook and Twitter hashtg feeds on the same screen.
- Announce at the beginning of sessions that participants should use the conference hashtag to share their observations during the session. This helps the remote audience that wanted to be there (but can’t) follow the conference.
- Get a couple posters made (or just make your own) with the hashtag and put one on the presentation dais. Ask presenters to put it on the first slide of their presentation.
- The conference hashtag is a perfect place to run announcements that keep people on top of what is going on or changes in the program. You can also use it to run contests at the conference.
Event hashtags turbo boost community at your events. There are many more suggestions for using them at conferences. If you’ve seen some good ones, stick them in the comments.