Hopefully by now everyone knows what a hashtag is beyond an annoying way that kids talk today.

Or a scroll at the bottom of a TV show.

Hashtags began randomly enough in 2007 and became popularized during the San Diego wildfires of that year.

They allow users of Twitter (and now every other social media) to search and find topics. They are now hyperlinked in the status, so all you have to do is click to get your search results.

Which brings me to random acts of hashtags.

There is a marketing conference taking place right now. I have several friends attending the conference, and they are all using a different hashtag.

Rather than be able to follow one conversation, there are several conversations taking place.

Since I am fortunate to follow many people in my industry, I was able to catch on pretty quick to what was going on with the three separate hashtags.

Unfortunately, I am not that invested that I will build out a multiple hashtag search result into one stream.

You lost me. And you lost me in several places:

  1. I am not following all the conversations, so I am not getting the rich content I would like to have and I assume is there.
  2. Your attendees and speakers are not connecting with one another in one online space.
  3. It shows, to me, a lack of sophisticating in a marketplace (digital) that I believe to be highly important.
  4. You’re telling showing me that you just don’t get it.

So what can you do to avoid random acts of hashtags?

  1. Conference organizers need to create and vet a hashtag well in advance of the conference. Preferably when the conference materials are being prepared so you can start advertising it right away.
  2. You vet hashtags by testing them to make sure no one else is using it.
  3. You need to start utilizing the hashtag well in advance of the conference to engage people. Use it to announce speakers, highlight sponsors, post randomly about the location. Actively promote the hashtag so by the time the conference rolls around, everyone attending and listening in understands that “this is the official hashtag.”

That’s it.

So WHY is this important?

  1. Properly engaging those at the conference creates new relationships and networking opportunities. And for those of us who read conference evaluations and market research, networking is ranked as high as education at these conference.
  2. You are promoting next year’s event. By having a concerted effort of showcasing your education and networking in one place, you are SHOWING me why I am missing out by not being there today, and why I really need to add this to my calendar and budget for next year.

Think of your hashtag as the invitation to your digital meeting place. You wouldn’t randomly tell people to join you in a city for a conference. You would advertise the location.

That’s what your hashtag is doing. It is inviting people to your conference, in its digital space.