Sunday, 27 May 2012

Torch Tweets - Hashtags

For the past week I've been following the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay around the country through the text, pictures and video posted on Twitter by local authorities, the Police and other agencies. This page displays a timeline of live content and you can use it to follow the Relay as it progresses.

Initially I did this to prepare for when the Relay reaches Berkshire, as then the live page will display content from local organisations and residents, or Torch Tweeters as we're calling them; you can read more about this here. It has however given me an invaluable insight into how social media is being used to cover this event.

Over the next few weeks I'll post my observations and my first is on hashtags.

Despite being a national event (international if you include Dublin) I couldn't find any attempt to join everything up on Twitter. Some counties have sensibly used a common hashtag, #GlosTorchRelay for instance was used to tie together all the tweets from the Police, district and county councils in Gloucestershire but there seems to be no one hashtag throughout all the areas the Relay visits.

This might have something to do with the main hashtag used by @London2012 being so long, #London2012TorchRelay takes up a lot of characters so some have shortened it to #TorchRelay or have used #OlympicTorch or #OlympicTorchRelay.

Those who are using other hastags are generally adopting phrases suggested by LOCOG such as #linethestreets and #momenttoshine and the former has been also used by @London2012. These are great for traditional press releases but can create confusion when used as hashtags.

Some councils used one hashtag in one tweet, another in a subsequent tweet and yet another in a following tweet. People often follow an event by searching for one specific hashtag rather than following all the accounts that might be tweeting about it so if you're using #London2012TorchRelay in some, and #linethestreets or #TorchRelay in others it's likely that some of your audience will miss quite a bit of your content.

So what have I learned? If you're creating an event, pick one reasonably short hashtag, stick with it and publicise what it is. If you're narrating someone else's event and they haven't or won't specify one, talk to others covering it and agree a common hashtag.

What are do you think of ths and the Olympic Torch Relay coverage in general on Twitter so far? I'd be interested to know and you can find me at @PhilRumens.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

What Is Twitter?

Twitter. It’s for keeping in touch with friends, say some, it’s for sharing ideas say others, it’s for promoting your organisation and getting your message out to the world, say more.

This is not what Twitter is; this is what you can do with Twitter.

Twitter at a basic level is an online database of information that can be read and written to by much of the world’s population who own a computer or other device capable of connecting to the Internet.

It’s not until you look at it like this that you can realise its full potential. What’s more the nice people at Twitter provide an API to make it easy to query and extract the data. You can select tweets by user, list, hashtag, phrases or words in the tweet and more.

If this all sounds a bit nerdy that’s because it is, so here’s a practical example of what can be achieved. This page here displays Tweets from everyone who’s in this list and have used the hashtag #geotagtest. It displays the four most recent images attached toTweets that fit this criteria and it will also display the 100 latest Tweets on a map where the user has added a location to their Tweet.

This approach means that Twitter becomes a very simple to use but amazingly powerful management tool for small pieces of website content. Users could be sitting in an office, or standing in a field and (so long as they have an internet connection) can contribute to this page.

Not only does this have potential for covering events, it would also be useful in an Emergency Operation situation where information needs to be contributed and distributed to and from various locations and the public.

So next time you’re asked “What is Twitter”, tell them it’s an online database with 140 million users; what they choose to do with this data is entirely up to them.

Do you have any new ideas for using Twitter for micro content management? Would you like to know more? You can discuss this with me on Twitter @PhilRumens.
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.