Standardize basic hashtags for Charlotte

Statistics from what the hashtag wiki for #chs

Statistics from what the hashtag wiki for #chs

“People want to slice information for local cultures; this means that the local cultures need to be able to do the slicing rather than rely on institutions that are more likely to create universal organization schemas. No organization has the diversity necessary to build all of the different glocalized systems that people desire.”
danah boyd, 2005

It started with #tacos and #pbr08.
Charlotte people on Twitter early used hashtags, those words preceded by the # mark, to make jokes and organize drinking parties.
It evolved into #snOMG, a snow event in pre-Oprah 2009.

Now Dan Conover and others in Charleston have shown a way forward, a way to filter the noise of Twitter, from the beginning of the message, enabling better manual search and better search on clients like Tweetie and HootSuite. It’s a folksonomy, or agreed-upon naming convention for tags, which helps people find and share specific information. In this case, keeping it local is key.

Don’t let “folksonomy” scare you. It just means keywords that a community chooses. Charlotte already has #charlotte, used in at least one RSS feed on a commercial website for tweets from Charlotte. It used #cltgas during a shortage in the fall of 2008, borrowing from Atlanta, which invented #atlgas and, most recently, #atlflood.

Charlotte also has #cltcc for the city council, although perhaps it’s sometimes overused by some candidates running for election. It was documented by Brandon Uttley on what the hashtag.

Of course, Twitter itself is working to enhance filtering, creating lists, in which people will be able to group sources together.

Even so, power remains in shared, collaborative keywords, first developed on Twitter during the San Diego fires of 2007 and popularized after a post by Chris Messina.

Conover’s story shows that a filtering method is available now, controllable in a shared way by individuals. He told the tale at Columbia’s Social Media Club on Thursday about a hashtag summit, in which local media representatives and bloggers met at a bar and agreed upon basic hashtags for the Charleston area. And they discussed principles, like uniform length (short) and amount of total tags.

As of Friday night, the basic tag, #chs, has been used in 722 tweets, with 242 contributors, for an average of 103.1 tweets per day, in the past week.

Conover made it sound so simple, but I suspect it was more like herding cats, in a day when many people are seizing branding opportunities in social media. Getting competing media to agree on using standard hashtags isn’t necessarily easy. Conover and others in Charleston deserve credit for a strong example of cooperation.

“During the boom, there was a rush to get everything and everyone online. It was about creating a global village. Yet, packing everyone into the town square is utter chaos. People have different needs, different goals. People manipulate given structures to meet their desires. We are faced with a digital environment that has collective values. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in search. For example, is there a best result to the query “breasts”? It’s all about context, right?”
danah boyd, 2005

Conover said cities like Louisville, Ky., and Vancouver have adopted similar practices since Charleston’s effort. And in Charleston, “even the police use it,” he said at the social media summit. On the panel with Conover, discussing the future of journalism and social media, was Charlotte’s Jeff Elder, who took this video afterward of Conover explaining Charleston’s efforts.

And in Asheville, Jeff Fobes of The Mountain Express announced a change on Oct. 7 from branded #mxnow tags to community centered #avl tags. The Mountain Express is a weekly paper that embraced hashtags early on its website, allowing community members to tweet information and have it appear on the site easily.

To be effective, the hashtags need to be well-known, documented, shared and short. Getting buy-in from others also seems to require a bottom-up, collaborative approach. So, to get things rolling, I’ve added to Uttley’s documentation of the #cltcc tag on what the hashtag, borrowing liberally from Charleston.

Here are Charlotte’s proposed tags, many of which are already in widespread use but weren’t necessarily documented previously:

  • #clt A short general tag for Charlotte. It’s been around awhile and echoes the airport code. Use of it doesn’t mean #charlotte goes away, especially if RSS feeds have been built on the longer tag. But it’s a suggestion for a shorter, standard tag that already gets used fairly often, going forward.
  • #cltvote A tag for tweets about voting and elections in Charlotte.
  • #cltwx Proposed tag for tweets about Charlotte weather. Local TV weather guy @wxbrad is promoting the use of the tag #severeweather, but #cltwx is consistent with others’ use, could provide more geo-specific information and be shorter.
  • #cltbrkg Proposed tag for Charlotte breaking news, copying Charleston’s similar tag.
  • #clttrfk Proposed tag for Charlotte traffic.
  • #clteats Proposed tag for food and drink in Charlotte.
  • #cltdeal Proposed tag for deals in Charlotte.
  • #cltbiz Proposed tag for business news in Charlotte.

Remember, what the hashtag is a wiki, so if you think that list excludes a tag you want to see, you can add it yourself. In addition, you can edit existing entries. Certainly it seems Charlotte needs a documented school board tag, and it would be great to create #cltneeds to help with efforts like Mission Possible. I suspect we need to add tags for Ballantyne, Plaza Midwood, the Eastside, Uptown, etc.

Hashtag conflict.

Hashtag conflict.

Of course, the shorter the tag, the more room you have for your tweet or other tags. At the same time, the shorter the tag, the more likely it will conflict with someone else’s use.

Specifically, #clt appears to be used in India as well. What the hashtag makes a graph of the number of times the tag is used and who’s using it, so the wiki can be used for data analysis and conflict resolution as well as documentation. And sometimes collisions happen: #cbj apparently stands for the Columbus (Ohio) Blue Jackets as well as the Charlotte Business Journal. But that’s why a wiki matters: It can help sort out conflicts.

Few of these tags should be static; our world is constantly changing. We can at least begin. If you want to talk more, I plan to be at BarCamp Charlotte on Oct. 17.

“It’s important to realize that Web2.0 is not a given – it is possible to f*** it up, especially if power and control get in the way.”
danah boyd, 2005

Further reading: danah boyd.

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13 responses to “Standardize basic hashtags for Charlotte

  1. This is a great and extremely helpful piece. Shows why Krewson is a thought leader in social media journalism. Let’s do it!

  2. Andria you are really on to something with the standardization of hashtags. #cltwx is a concise a great tag for Charlotte stuff, but has drawbacks to weather that’s happening outside the metro area. I think I should and can use a 3 tier system for my wx info within the market #cltwx, #ncwx #scwx. This way people in our 22 county media market can get info without me looking to Charlotte centric.

  3. Hi Brad,
    Good point on geography. Weather geeks definitely have led the way on some of this stuff; my theory is that Charleston reached an early consensus because of their vulnerability to storms.
    Shortness matters when you have to use several tags, and I’m sure everyone in your market coverage appreciates your good thinking.
    Now I wonder whether we’ll ever get various outlets to agree on prep sports…

  4. I’ve noticed my fellow wx tweeters in other parts of the country like using state plus wx tags. Seems like a simple high school football tag would help everyone for scores on Friday nights as well, thanks for the great ideas!

  5. Dan pointed this piece out to me. — I can’t encourage your community enough to embrace these loose standards.

    We’ve experienced success in Charleston by getting the most active local twitter users and media outlets excited about it first, and then the rest of the community has followed example.

    Here’s the ones we’ve found to be successful in Charleston: http://thedigitel.com/arts-culture/charleston-twitterers-work-adopt-stand-categorizat-3471-0324

  6. Thanks for the comment, Ken.

    What y’all are doing with The Digitel is quite intriguing. Loved being able to go there and see more on Michelle Obama’s S.C. roots.

    Some folks like @93octane, @richtucker, @cltblog and @jakrose discussed this tagging approach early in Charlotte, but I think we didn’t figure out how to enforce it without sounding like schoolmarms.

    Your approach of getting buy-in from active media and users helps tons.

    It’s not about discouraging hashtag fun and humor; it’s about adding some useful tools.

    And that brings to mind something: Take a look at what minnpost.com is doing with local Twitter ads on the bottom left of their site. They showed it off at the recent Online News Association.
    #revenueexperiment. $25 per tweet. :~)

  7. Andriak, you mentioned several interesting things.

    1) Regarding enforcement: Yeah, we also realized that if we tried a top-down enforcement we would just come off looking like elitist jerks. — Instead we’ve don a soft approach, and largely allowed the community to grow their own. Every now and then someone tries to introduce a new one. #chsgreen was an instant success, but I’ve been peddling #chsarts for sometime with no luck.

    One method that seems to increase adoption is by re-tweeting and adding hashtags.

    2) Thanks for kind words. We knew that being a news connector was the name of the new media game, but we increasingly see ourselves in the context and link framing business.

    3) Interesting on their real-time ads. Will have to spend some time looking at this. We recently starting doing something in a similar vein that we’re calling “Digitel Dynamic Ads” that can either funnel your message onto our site, or harness the conversation surrounding a product. http://thedigitel.com/ads

  8. Pingback: My Attempt at Columbia Revolution | rybomedia

  9. what about adding?
    #cltnp nonprofits
    #cltarts

  10. Pingback: The December 2009 snowstorm and a little hashtag that began in Charlotte « Global Vue

  11. Standardizing hashtags for CLT is a great idea. I would like to propose #cltcre for Charlotte commercial real estate.

  12. Jen,
    Thanks for the comment, and #cltcre sounds good. Further, it looks as if #cltre is already used widely for real estate, although not universally. We ought to document those.

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