Hashtag Etiquette for Microblogging Search

TwitterWhen I chair a social media conference, I like to introduce the participants to Twitter and Twitter search at the beginning of the conference so that they can experience community building and conversation during the conference.

One of the participants at a conference I chaired last week posed the following question in an email:

Question for you about the use of #tags that came out of the way you used them at the conference. We are a co-sponsor of a series of [events] that revolve around various science topics. After my presentation and your use of the tags someone from one of the other sponsor of the [events] finally ‘got it’ and has asked me to add some social media elements to the events.

The next one is [next week].  I’d like to essentially Twitter the event, add some elements to our Facebook app and/or group and of course blog about it. The tag I’d use is #xxxxxxx.

Now for the question… You can’t ‘reserve’ a tag and we’d like  to do some pre-promotion through our e-mail lists and the co-sponsors’ web sites.  If I start using the tag in the next few days to make sure it doesn’t become something else ( not likely but you never can tell ) is that considered okay Twitter Etiquette or do I simply wait until the day of the event and start building up to it ?

My thoughts:

Often the same hashtag can be used for different events/contexts at different times (e.g. #ALI for the ALI Conference in September; #ALI when the Sports Hall of Fame is commemorating Muhammad Ali.)

However, to ensure that I’m not overlapping with a contemporaneous event, I’ll search for the term on search.twitter.com prior to beginning to use it. I count on others to do the same thing. So, if you start to use a hashtag now, others will discover in their search that you are using the hashtag and they will avoid using it while you are using it.

TwemesFinally, some people argue that if you are using a term that is truly unique to you, there is no need to use a hashtag. This was the case for an event like BlogOrlando, where the organizers decided to tweet without using hashtags. However, this works if you want to be discovered only in search.twitter.com. Your event will not be picked up in mircoblogging search services such as twemes.

Bottom line:

Hashtag etiquette relies on simple consideration. Use a tag that makes sense in the context of your event. Check before you begin to use it to ensure that no one else is using it. And feel free to start using it as soon as you will be generating enough tweets to make it a meaningful search term.

What do you think?

Do you agree with my advice? Would you add to it?